For many years the Volvo car brand, more so than any other, was synonymous with safety. Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larson, Volvo’s founders, set out to make it so, saying in 1927, the year the first Volvo came off the assembly line, "Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain, safety."
Long before government regulation mandated ‘standard’ safety features, Volvo was inventing and patenting many of these features and manufacturing cars equipped with them. The list is impressive from the concept of a safety cage and laminated glass windshields in the 1940s, safety belts in the 50s, padded dashboards and rear-facing child seats in the 60s, impact absorbing steering columns in the 70s, to a side-impact protection system in the 90s, to name only a few.
Volvo is now owned by the Ford Motor Company. The list of “safety milestones” has continued to grow under Ford’s stewardship and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Volvo’s S80 is one of the 2009 Top Safety Picks Award winner.
Volvo’s latest self-set challenge, however, may be its greatest. Volvo’s senior safety adviser, Thomas Broberg, said, in a recent news release, “Our aim for 2020 is that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo.” In pursuit of this necessary goal, Volvo is preparing to release a new crash prevention system on the upcoming Volvo S60 called “collision warning with full auto brake and pedestrian detection”. Proclaiming this system to be “a giant step forward” by boosting safety for unprotected road-users and by “advancing from fifty percent to full automatic braking power” Mr. Broberg claims that “to the best of our knowledge, none of our competitors have made such progress in this area.”
The system “consists of a new dual-mode radar unit integrated into the car’s grille, a camera behind the inside rear-view mirror and a central control unit…. The radar’s task is to detect objects and measure the distance to them. The camera determines what type of objects they are. In an emergency…, the driver is first alerted by an audible warning together with a flashing light in the windscreen’s head-up display. …To prompt an immediate, intuitive reaction, the visual warning is designed to look like a brake light coming on. If the driver does not respond, the car’s brakes are applied with full braking power. Active brake deployment requires that the object is confirmed by both the radar and the camera. Thanks to state-of-the-art sensor technology, it is now possible to engage full braking power," explains Thomas Broberg.
Critics say the S60’s technology does not keep other vehicles from crashing into it. Volvo says, “In most cases, we can reduce the collision force by about 75 percent.” And it adds, “Considering the large number of pedestrian fatalities that occur, if we manage to lower the fatality risk by 20 percent this new function will make a big difference. In specific situations the fatality reduction can be up to 85 percent."