Swedish firm's future safety systems aim to stop accidents before they happen
1 November 2007

Volvo's well-known for its passive safety systems – from crumple zones to high-tensile steel passenger compartments – but it's active safety that's coming to the fore."Accidents are not inevitable," says Thomas Broberg, senior technical advisor on safety. Using research from 36,000 real-world accidents (Volvo politely points out the Euro NCAP tests are all very well, but they're about laboratory conditions), the Swedish firm is coming up with new technologies that aim to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.We've just driven a prototype S80 equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which uses a combination of existing GPS and wi-fi technology to allow cars to know where other cars are, and what they're doing.The idea is that by doing so accidents can be avoided – you'll be warned of stationary cars around a blind bend, for example – and traffic flow improved. The big challenge is agreeing an industry-wide standard (along the lines of Bluetooth), because otherwise only cars of the same brand will communicate.But while vehicle-to-vehicle communication is still 10 years away, Volvo's got a bundle of accident prevention technologies that you'll be able to buy before the end of the decade.First up is collision warning with autobrake. A development of the existing collision warning system available in the S80 and V70, this will apply the brakes for you rather than just warn you of an impending collision. It will be available from early 2008, and although it won’t fully stop the car, by slowing it the severity of impact is reduced. A full-brake system is five years away. There's also a similar system that uses a blend of lasers and cameras to identify pedestrians and apply the brakes if you get too close. Expect to be able to buy it within two years. Finally comes collision avoidance with auto steering. This applies steering lock to put you back into the right lane if you start drifting towards oncoming traffic. It's unnerving, but highly effective. You'll be able to buy it in five years or so.It's no accident that Volvos have a reputation for being safe.

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