SWEDEN: Volvo targets no-crash car by 2020
Volvo's vision for 2020 is to make cars that do not crash and cause no occupant deaths or injuries.
The goal is in the automaker's seventh sustainability report. To get there the challenge is to stop accidents in the first place and that is not only down to car companies.
Hans Nyth, head of the company's safety centre in Sweden, has advice for authorities working with road safety improvement.
Widen the focus on the accident types to be prioritised. Non-fatal accidents are not receiving enough attention. Prioritise infrastructure planning with greater use of dual carriageways. Roads with central barriers have led to a radical reduction in the number of head-on collisions. More emphasis on safety when people are being taught to drive.
Volvo has a big reputation for safety and its research is based on real traffic situations and real accidents.
Nyth said in the report: "Our Traffic Accident Research Team carries out thorough investigation and analysis of accidents and accident sites.
"Since 1970, we have built a database containing data from over 36,000 Swedish accidents involving over 60,000 people travelling in Volvos. This is a unique resource, a source of information which helps us to improve and develop our cars to save lives."
The firm;s safety centre, one of the world's most advanced crash laboratories, was opened in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2000. Many different types of collision can be staged under conditions close to reality.
There Volvo develops safety system which it hopes will lead to the crash-proof car in 12 years.
It has already developed 'city safety', which it claims is the first system in the world to help drivers avoid low-speed collisions in city traffic and tailbacks - the most common accidents. If the driver of a so-equipped car is about to collide with the car in front and fails to react in time, the car will brake automatically thanks to speed sensors which monitor traffic progress.
This system will be available on the new XC60 due out later this year. Sensor inside the windscreen monitors progress.
Volvo has also developed driver alert control designed to warn drivers when they may be tired or losing concentration - when driving on a straight, monotonous stretch of road. The system monitors the vehicle's progress relative to the road markings, and warns the driver if his or her driving style indicates loss of concentration or control. An audible signal will sound.
The collision warning with auto brake system was launched in 2007 in the S80, V70 and XC70. Rear-end collisions account for about a third of all accidents and this system uses radar to warn the driver of an imminent collision and starts to apply the brakes.
Variations of such systems are either in some other makers' cars already or under development by specialist suppliers such as TRW Automotive.
To cut out crashes completely, Volvo needs to work with other car companies as well and it is sharing some of its technologies through EU initiatives, particularly in terms of communication between vehicles.
This will allow cars to send messages to each other about potential hazards such as heavy braking or turning out of side roads.
Volvo says that all manufacturers have to work together as they have to speak the same communications 'language'.
The Safety Centre is also carrying out a research into pedestrian behaviour.
Some similar projects are also under way at automakers in Japan.
There is still a long way to go in terms of the Volvo research, however. For example the system must be able to detect whether the vehicle is approaching a pedestrian rather than an inanimate object.