Fewer bongs and nags, but no less safety.
Volvo has promised that its new advanced driver assist suite will be less annoying, as the constant warning can possibly break the trust between the driver and their car. Representatives from Volvo revealed as much to Autocar at the first public crash test of the EX90 EV.
"You spend about 80% of your time looking at the road ahead and 20% elsewhere," said Mikael Ljung, senior safety technical lead at Volvo. "People have learned to do this in a way that works for safe driving." In other words, the 80/20 split works and accidents are caused by "inopportune glances every once in a blue moon," according to Ljung.
That's why the new system will only warn a driver if they're distracted in a scenario where the car would need to intervene to avoid a crash. The intensity of these warnings will increase if the driver doesn't start paying attention or the likelihood of an impact increases. In short, the EX90 won't nag you if you glance down to change the radio station once the all-new NSYNC song drops.
The head of the Volvo Cars Safety Center also had some interesting insight. She taught her son how to drive and made an interesting observation. "We started off with me being quite an annoying active safety system screaming 'watch out!'" said Asa Haglund. "My son soon doesn't listen to me anymore, does he? It's super annoying, and for sure, it doesn't make him a better driver."
According to Haglund, that's why Volvo needs to find a balance: "When you look away, and something happens - and [the car's safety systems] are looking - that's when we want to tell you when the help is needed and not any other time. That's when we make an effective safety system, not by calling out anything we see at any time."
And the EX90 will have a lot of safety systems. It will be sold with eight cameras, five radars, 16 ultrasonic sensors, and a roof-mounted LiDAR sensor. That's a lot of information to process.
This is welcome news, as we have loads of experience driving the XC90, which, it has to be said, is an extremely impressive car from a safety perspective.
Still, the current onboard advanced safety systems can be annoying. We've had problems in various cars with the oncoming vehicle crossing alert, the basic traction and stability control, and how it reacts when a bit of slip is detected. The oncoming vehicle alert stopped us dead in our tracts, even though the car it detected was 200 yards away. The traction and stability control is too sensitive, which can be deeply annoying on a gravel road. The seat belts tighten whenever the car detects any sideways action at the rear.
We appreciate advancements in safety, but Haglund correctly believes that when bongs and nags are incessant, they are less effective, and too much interference can lead to mistrust in a vehicle. We hope others follow suit in a responsible way. Tesla, we're looking at you, and so are the feds.