Safety systems are not meant to take over control.
Volvo has built up an enviable reputation as a manufacturer of very safe automobiles, having pioneered such technologies as the three-point safety belt, rearward-facing child seats, and side impact protection. More recently, the advent of autonomous and active driver assist systems has highlighted the fact that the line between who is in control has become increasingly blurred.
In an interview with Automotive News Europe, Malin Ekholm, director of the Car Safety Center at Volvo Cars headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, went into some detail about how they were facing the next stage of challenges regarding automotive safety.
"We're very focused that you as a driver know that you're in charge, and not giving you so much support that you question who's in charge," she said. "It's nudging rather than giving the feeling of taking over."
With a bevy of new tools to ensure passenger safety, the carmaker's safety strategy is shifting from passenger protection to accident prediction and avoidance, Ekholm continued. While crash tests still form an integral part of Volvo's safety program, the integration of autonomous and connected-vehicle technology in modern vehicles means that they run tens of thousands of virtual accident simulations as well.
Ekholm says that the focus is now on providing the driver with more and more information to help avoid possible accidents. In Sweden, vehicle-to-vehicle technology transfers information between cars on road conditions and upcoming hazards.
The human element is important to address too and the potential to abuse these safety systems can result in accidents they were designed to avoid in the first place. Ekholm has expanded her team to include human behaviour and biomechanical researchers to account for this. She concludes by saying that the field of autonomous safety has many facets and that their continued safety research should help them identify the best way forward to maintain their preeminent position as the maker of some of the world's safest automobiles.