Volvo has long been famed for safety and the current Volvo V40 is packed with so much sophisticated safety technology that it has earned the title of being the UK’s safest car.

This model is stuffed with life-saving kit that would have been unimaginable just 10 years ago, including the world’s first pedestrian airbag – which erupts out from under the bonnet to cushion unlucky pedestrians’ heads, should the driver be unable to avoid them.

Not only does the car protect occupants and pedestrians, but it comes with a huge array of systems which help you avoid a collision in the first place. All of this ties in to Volvo’s “Vision 2020” strategy which aims to insure that “nobody shall be killed in a new Volvo by 2020.”

Launched in 2007, Volvo’s ambitious safety target aims to prevent any deaths or injuries in its new cars by the turn of the next decade. The company hopes to do this by further improving crash safety and honing the technology that can prevent accidents in the first place.

We’ve rounded up some of Volvo’s most useful safety tech that is helping the company to reach its ambitious goal.

Volvo V40 – intelligent technology and collision avoidance tech

Volvo safety manager Jan Ivarsson says: “The main direction for the future is to avoid collisions, expanding the scope of engineering into autonomous driving reducing driver errors.”

Consequently the company has developed a number of cutting edge technologies which use laser, radar and cameras to scan the road ahead and reduce the severity of, or completely avoid collisions with vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. Volvo is even developing a system specificall designed to avoid crashes with animals on the road (think deer not squirrels).

Over the last decade these technologies have reduced the injury rate in Volvos by 50 per cent and the company claims to be on target to achieve its zero death target by 2020. The urban-focused “City Safety” system alone is estimated to have reduced crash rates by up to 20 per cent according to safety experts Thatcham.

1. City Safety

Active at up to 31mph, this system scans the road ahead using a laser. Sensing objects ahead, the car can then automatically brake the car if the driver doesn’t appear to be reacting in time to the vehicle in front slowing down – or approaching stationary traffic too fast.

2. Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection

An extension of City Safety is the ability for the car to spot pedestrians and cyclists ahead. The car flashes up a warning on the windscreen and again can automatically apply the brakes if it senses that the driver is not slowing down.

3. Pedestrian airbag

Should the pedestrian detection system fail to avoid a collision, the V40 has a world-first pedestrian airbag which inflates over the back half of the bonnet and bottom of the windscreen. This should prevent serious head injuries which account for a large proportion of pedestrian deaths. Volvo claims that pedestrians make up 14 per cent of road fatalities in Europe, while the figure for China is 25 per cent and the USA 12 per cent.

4. Adaptive cruise control and Queue Assist

With vehicles travelling at high speeds on motorways, cars slowing ahead can present the risk of a collision. Adaptive cruise control automatically maintains a set time gap behind the car in front, in attempt to prevent the car getting too close to the vehicle ahead to stop safely.

Queue Assist on automatic models can even maintain a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead, all the way down to a standstill.

5. BLIS/Cross Traffic Alert

With many new cars featuring very large front and rear pillars, drivers can find their vision obscured by substantial blind spots. Several systems available in the V40 monitor the surrounding roads to warn drivers of approaching vehicles that may not be otherwise visible.

BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) alerts drivers to cars coming up from behind in the next lane across, while Cross Traffic Alert uses radar to warn drivers of approaching traffic when reversing out of from behind an obstacle, where visibility is limited.

Other safety tech available can help keep you in your lane and warn you if you’re driving too close to the car in front or appear to be getting tired. “Park Assist Pilot” will even steer you into parking spaces.

Volvo may have a long history of developing safety technology, but it’s hard to find a car manufacturer that hasn’t stuffed its new cars with numerous airbags, ABS, traction control, stability control and collision-avoidance technology.

Volvo is however, unique in its ambition to eradicate deaths in its cars – and so soon. Whether it manages to hit its target, the company’s ambitious goal will no doubt have saved a number of lives. With autonomous cars on the horizon, Volvo may just be able to pull it off…

Daljinder Nagra


July 4, 2014

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