By 2020, no one will be killed in a new Volvo. Think about that for a second. Even for a company as highly regarded for its automotive safety as Volvo, that’s an almost unthinkable task. Yet that’s its aim.
Every year, 1.3 million people lose their lives on the roads worldwide, while between 20 million and 50 million are injured. According to the World Health Organisation, 92 per cent of those deaths occur on the roads of low-income and middle-income countries. Yet these countries account for just 53 per cent of all registered vehicles.
The goal is made harder by the EU-led drive to reduce emissions, which means cars must be made lighter, potentially affecting their crashworthiness. Volvo’s solution is to develop cars that take account of their surroundings. The message is clear: Volvo will develop cars that are harder to crash, rather than ones that will protect occupants more if you crash. One insider joked that Volvo could build cars from paper and they would still be safe.
This philosophy is nothing new. It led to the launch of functions such as City Safety, which reduces the chances or severity of a low-speed shunt, in 2007. What is new are the measures that Volvo will take.
The long-term goal is to develop fully autonomous vehicles. But Volvo admits that there are still many obstacles it needs to overcome, not least to do with legislation and infrastructure, even though, ostensibly, the technology to do it already exists. A series of technical demonstrations by Volvo revealed that cars are able to steer, stop and avoid obstacles both during the daytime and at night. Volvo is also developing cars that can park themselves and return to an agreed pick-up point at the tap of a smartphone screen.
Remove the weak point from the process of driving — the driver — and the roads will become a safer place, claims Volvo.