Safety conscious

Volvo aims to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries from accidents involving its vehicles. Autonomous functions and the firm’s modular vehicle architecture will help

Reducing accidents on Europe’s roads is an important goal, and one that was being pushed long before organisations such as Euro NCAP started influencing the adoption of safety technologies. Volvo has a distinguished history of work in this area, from the introduction of the three-point seatbelt to the side-impact protection system it developed in the late 1980s. 

The company has set itself the goal of reducing to zero fatalities and serious injuries from crashes involving its vehicles by 2020. There are 28,000 fatalities on Europe’s roads every year, so any success that Volvo has in achieving its target will help to bring down this number. While Volvo’s aim is commendable, it isn’t just vehicle occupants that it needs to account for – it must also protect pedestrians. 

The target is keeping Stefan Ryrberg extremely busy, but Volvo’s senior research engineer for safety isn’t simply relying on input from his team. “Everyone at Volvo breathes safety,” he says. “It’s the first brick in a development programme.”  

As important as it is, integrating the latest safety technologies into current platforms can be challenging, but the firm’s scaleable vehicle architecture should simplify the process. The first vehicle to use it will be the XC90 SUV, which will benefit from an improved body-in-white structure. Only 7% of the original XC90 was made from hot-formed boron steel – the second-generation structure increases this to more than 40%, making it significantly stronger.

The improved strength will help Volvo to meet far more severe crash test protocols such as the small overlap frontal test conducted by the IIHS in the US – 25% of the total width of the vehicle strikes a barrier on the driver’s side at 65km/h. Even future crash tests don’t faze Ryrberg.

“For us, the small overlap wasn’t new,” he says. “We have conducted a similar test since 1994, and there are other crash situations that aren’t regulated for but we have also looked at. The main thing is to have a strong body with the right load paths to cope with different scenarios.”

tags: Volvo autonomous driving Connectivity Electronics Safety