Peek into the future : cars that are crash-proof

It is already renowned for making some of the safest cars around the planet, but Swedish car maker Volvo intends to go a notch higher. By 2020, Volvo, now owned by Chinese auto maker Geely, plans to make their cars so safe that nobody with his seat belt fastened would die or be critically injured in their cars. Here is how the company intends to walk the talk on this audacious claim. Some of these based on radar guided technology that may never make it to India but it still shows the future of things to come.

Auto brakes

Volvo calls it city safety technology – featuring automatic braking in low speed situations. City Safetykeeps an eye on traffic in front with the help of a laser sensor that is integrated into the top of the windscreen at the height of the rear-view mirror. The car automatically brakes if the driver fails to react in time when the vehicle in front slows down or stops – or if the car is approaching a stationary vehicle too fast. The collision can be avoided if the relative speed difference between the two vehicles is below 15 km/h. If it is between 15 and 50 km/h, the speed of impact is reduced to minimise the effects of the collision. How effective is this? A study by Swedish insurance company Volvia shows that Volvocars equipped with City Safety are involved in approximately 20% fewer rear-end accidents than carswithout auto brake. By the end of the decade, the speeds at which this feature comes to play maybe upgraded upwards.

Full crash safety features–an airbag for your knees too

Front airbags, curtain airbags, side airbags are passe. Volvo is now planning to introduce knee airbags for the driver. It is installed in the dashboard above the pedals and deployed together with the other airbags in the event of a frontal collision. This is in addition to a safety cage with effective deformation zones and various grades of high-strength steel, safety belt pre-tensioners in the front and outer rear seats and whiplash protection in the front to help prevent neck injuries. Both the driver and front seat passenger seat have dual stage airbags as also side airbags integrated in the front seat backrests. Plus, inflatable curtains cover both sides, from the A-pillar to the C-pillar, and deploy in frontal offset, side or rollover accident situations. A closing velocity sensor collects information and interprets pre-crash data in order to prepare the restraint systems – belts and airbags – for the expected crash violence in low and mid-severe frontal accidents. Virtually, you are travelling in a disguised soft cushion balloon and not a mash of steel.

Enhanced Blind Spot Information System and cross traffic alert

This radar based technology monitors and alerts the driver to rapidly approaching vehicles up to 70 metres behind the car. It also informs the driver about vehicles in the blind spots on both sides of thecar. This helps to avoid potentially dangerous lane-changing manoeuvres. The radar sensors are located in the rear corners of the car, behind the bumper cover and continuously scan the area behind and alongside the vehicle. Warnings are displayed in LED indicators located in each A-pillar. A steadily glowing LED indicates when the radars cover a vehicle in the zone. The second warning level – LED flashing – occurs if the driver uses the turn indicator when the first alert is active. Volvo also uses cross traffic alert to intimate the driver to crossing traffic from the sides when reversing out of a parking space usings radar sensors at the rear end of the car.

An extra eye on traffic

Road sign information supports the driver by displaying road signs in the instrument display. The forward-looking camera can detect speed limit signs as well as “no overtaking” signs. The road sign icon is shown until another sign is detected. This can be combined with the speed alert function, which provides the driver with a visual warning in the speedometer if the speed limit is exceeded.

Pedestrian detection and airbags

Pedestrian detection with full auto brake is a technology that can detect if a pedestrian steps out into the road in front of the car. If the driver does not respond in time, the car can warn and automatically activate the brakes. It consists of a radar unit integrated into the car’s grille, a camera fitted in front of the interior rear-view mirror, and a central control unit. The radar’s task is to detect a pedestrian or vehicle in front of the car and to determine the distance to it. The camera determines what type of object it is. Even pedestrians about to step into the roadway can also be detected early on as it is programmed to trace a pedestrian’s pattern of movement and also to calculate whether he or she is likely to step into the road in front of the car. It can detect pedestrians who are 80 cm tall or taller.

In an emergency situation the driver first receives an audible warning combined with a flashing light in the windscreen’s head-up display. If the driver does not react to the warning and a collision is imminent, full braking power is automatically applied. Pedestrian Detection with full auto brake can avoid a collision with a pedestrian at speeds up to 35 km/h if the driver does not react in time. At higher speeds, the focus is on reducing the car’s speed as much as possible prior to impact. If a collision is still absolutely unavoidable, there is safety for pedestrian too. Enter pedestrian airbag. Sensors in the front bumper register the physical contact between the car and the pedestrian. The rear end of the bonnet is released and at the same time elevated by the deploying airbag. The inflated airbag covers the area under the raised bonnet plus approximately one third of the windscreen area and the lower part of the A-pillar. The raised bonnet and airbag will help reduce the severity of pedestrian injuries.

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