“Our vision is that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.”
Volvo chief executive Hakan Samuelsson’s pitch that no one will lose their life at the wheel of one of his cars is a huge call, one that has shaped the development of new models such as the upcoming XC60 SUV.
Drive caught up with Jan Ivarsson, senior technical adviser for safety, at the launch of the new XC60 SUV in Spain.
Drive: Is this the safest car Volvo has ever made?
Volvo: Yes, the new car represents that, although, more or less, every new car will be the safest one. As we move along with mission 2020 we deploy new functions with every launch. This time we are putting the city safety with steering support in the car as well as steer assist as well as oncoming collision mitigation with steering assist.
Drive: Oncoming mitigation looks like a really important piece of technology, (the car can steer itself away from a head-on collision) tell me what the aim of that is?
Volvo: We look into data – we know what sort of problems people have in real traffic, we’ve been doing this for many years. From what we have seen in the data we have two different modes that are troublesome from an energy perspective. One is a run-off-the-road type of situation where we have very complex type of situation on the side of the road.
The other one is if you have a head-on situation and you are drifting into the other lane, you could explore a crash with very high energies, and that means you have a risk of severe injuries. The cause of the incident could be that you for some reason inattentive, and not watching what you are doing.
Drive: How does that technology vary from conventional lane departure assistance?
Volvo: If you are drifting out of the lane the car will monitor with the radar, having a longer perspective than you have not watching. It will look for cars in the other lane, oncoming cars. If you have cars coming it will start image processing with the camera to really understand the problem. Now the car will start to steer itself back into your own lane.
Volvo: … it will steer back into its lane.
Drive: Will it sound an alarm as well?
Volvo: No, it will not send an alarm. Falling asleep is one thing that occurs earlier. Our car will have a driver alert functionality that will start or trigger much earlier before you have this type of drifting. It first offers the opportunity to have a rest, then it offers other warning. The cause of this (oncoming crash) is that you are distracted for some reason.
Drive: Where does this XC60 sit in the realm of SUVs? It has more safety gear than the XC90, does that make it the safest SUV in the world?
Volvo: That is a very sharp statement. We deliver according to our mission 2020 that no one should be seriously injured or killed in our cars by the end of 2020, and that’s what we are delivering from. If you look a the competition we give our cars an extremely high value regarding protective safety and a lot of built-in functions for rear-end collisions, side impacts, rollovers and so on. Advanced restraints, the best collision avoidance technology for cars, pedestrians, cyclists, large animals and so on as well as pilot assist and adaptive cruise control.
It’s a broad safety offer from a standard perspective, and it goes down to the very details.
Drive: One of your key rivals in Tesla has the ability to update safety functions over-the-air (wirelessly), is that an option for this?
Volvo: You will have the possibility of updating some of the cars already out there regarding this type of functionality. But we won’t have over-the-air updates for our cars, that’s for the future.
Drive: So you will be able to update features in this car through the dealer, as part of the servicing process? And over-the-air is something you’re actively working on?
Drive: How much of a concern is cyber security?
Volvo: We need to have a high standard for security. That is of importance. We have built in levels for cyber security in our cars.
Drive: Is there are particular safety feature that you’re proud of in these cars?
Volvo: Having this standard fitment of functionalities, one would be a key selling point in city safety (autonomous emergency braking), I’m very proud of that. It’s both the classical protective safety and collision avoidance on a very high level. I think Volvo is really pioneering both protective safety and collision avoidance for the customers.
Drive: have you performed an NCAP crash test for the car yet?
Volvo: No, we have not done the test yet. It’s in our plans.
Drive: The expectation is that it will be a very strong result?
Volvo: Of course. I see the rating as a sort of confirmation or qualifier of what we do. Our commitment goes way beyond ratings.
Drive: Is the NCAP rating system an accurate representation of a car like this or does it fall short of what a car can do?
Volvo: I think that it think it works very well for the bulk of car, I think the rating is very good. But to demonstrate safety leadership it’s not really there, that’s something different. We are looking into field data – that is real crashes – and trying to support NCAP to pitch a measurement protocol that is in line with what the customer will experience in real traffic. That is important to us. The effort that we put into our cars will give a performance for the customers out in real traffic.
Drive: What about the ability for NCAP to assess the active driver assistance, the crash prevention technology. I understand that is something NCAP is looking at doing soon?
Volvo: We will continue the dialogue and expand the scope of collision avoidance functions and methods because we think this is the most efficient way forward from a performance point of view.
Drive: Do you have an internal way of assessing this? How do you measure active safety?
Volvo: Based on customer data we look up new methods and requirements. What we put up is guidelines and requirements then we sign off on them in new cars. Over time it becomes more mature, we have generation one and two technologies, and you increase the performance – the scale of performance is calibrated according to the true need out in traffic.
Drive: Do you still work with police at the scene of the crash?
Volvo: Yes. We also have a tight cooperation in Sweden with one big insurance company, gathering data from that source. We also understand then how did the car react in different parts of the crash and if there are injuries we will ask the people to take part in a medical journal.
We have an expert doing encoding of the people that have been injured. That is done from the road perspective in Sweden – we also have a travelling road team, they work together with the police and the fire fighters.
Drive: The 2020 goal is very admirable. Is that achievable today? 2020 is not far away.
Volvo: It’s a vision, it’s a way of thinking. If you should think about the future, to think safety and no serous injuries and no fatalities that is a very sound way of thinking. Then we build functions and knowledge as we move on. It’s a direction of the company; It’s shared by myself, the engineers working at their desks, it’s shared by our CEO Hakan Samuelsson, so that everyone knows this and has this straightforward vision and direction.
It’s very ambitious. When we started saying this in 2007 a lot of people questioned whether this was really possible.
As we have moved on we’ve done the pioneering work with collision avoidance. We are down several generations of iterations and performance that is standard in our cars.
We’ve started something and I’m very confident that we will deploy new functions, new methods and new models, we’ll have the rest of the industry coming, with more and more cars are putting in this type of collision avoidance technology.