The Car that Stops Itself

Most collisions take place at speeds up to 19mph, especially rear-end shunts. Yet all this may be about to change with the impending launch of the new Volvo S60.

Cruise control systems operating through radar-based sensors are becoming commonplace on our roads. But such systems are now being made to look outdated by the development of “City Safety”, the innovative Volvo system, the first of its kind to function at speeds below 18mph.

Volvo’s latest model will be able to calculate relative speeds and distances and so regulate its own speed to maintain the same distance between it and the car in front. The driver need not even touch the break. This car can stop and start again all by itself.

Road accidents killed 1560 people in the EU countries’ capital cities in 2007. 43% of these fatalities were pedestrians. Volvo’s pioneering technology allows the car to detect a pedestrian who steps out into the car’s path. In such an emergency, the driver would first receive both an audible and a visual warning. If the driver does not respond to the danger, an automated braking system will deploy full braking power.

Similarly this technology is also highly beneficial with regard to rear-end impacts. Statistics reveal that in half of such collisions the rear driver does not brake before the crash. In these situations Collision Warning coupled with Full Auto Brake can help avoid a collision entirely, provided that the relative speeds of the two vehicles are within 15mph of each other.

Both systems are managed by a central control unit which coordinates a radar unit fitted into the car’s grille and a camera placed behind the inside rear-view mirror. Both are designed to constantly monitor the road in front; the radar to detect the presence of any object and calculate its relative distance, the camera to identify what the objects are.

Thomas Broberg, safety expert at Volvo Cars, commented on the innovations Volvo are making: “Our aim for 2020 is that no one should be killed or injured in a Volvo car…Now we are taking a giant step forward with a feature that also boosts safety for unprotected road-users.”

Such technology should drastically cut the number of pedestrian and rear-end collisions.

Although these safety systems will eventually spread from more expensive cars to all models, for the moment this benefit remains exclusive to those who can afford cars as costly as the new Volvo S60. Until many more models have similar capabilities rear-end shunts and whiplash victims will continue to play a large role in road traffic accident statistics.

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