One of Volvo’s stated goals is to eliminate road injuries and fatalities — not “reduce,” but eliminate — and the most recent step is to limit the top speed of its vehicles to 180 km/h, starting in 2020.
It’s a simple fix with today’s computerized powertrains, and a sensible one, given speed laws in just about every country on earth, but Volvo also knows that its ambitious vision won’t be realized by technology alone.
“We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behaviour, to tackle things such as speeding,” said Håkan Samuelsson, President and Chief Executive of Volvo Cars. “Because of our research, we know where the problem areas are when it comes to ending serious injuries and fatalities in our cars. And while a speed limitation is not a cure-all, it’s worth doing if we can even save one life.”
In addition to speed, Volvo Cars has also identified intoxication and distraction as the other two main safe-roads concerns that also have to be addressed.
In relation to speed, the company is not only electronically limiting the speed in its vehicles, but it is also looking at smart speed control and geofencing, because having a 180 km/h speed limiter isn’t really going to do much on an 80 km/h secondary highway or a 40 km/h school zone.
The company acknowledges that above certain speeds, in-car safety technology and smart infrastructure design are no longer enough to avoid severe injuries and fatalities in the event of a crash. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says 25% of all traffic fatalities in 2017 could be attributed to speeding.
“As humans, we all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much,” said Jan Ivarsson, one of Volvo Cars’ leading safety experts. “People often drive too fast in a given traffic situation and have poor speed adaption in relation to that traffic situation and their own (driving) capabilities. We need to support better behaviour and help people realise and understand that speeding is dangerous.”
Similarly, drivers continue to drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs, even though every jurisdiction on earth has laws against driving under the influence, and probably just as dangerous are drivers not fully engaged in the task of driving, either distracted by mobile devices, in car technology or other vehicle occupants.
The company is planning a special driving-issues event in Gothenburg, Sweden at the end of March 2019, at which it will present ideas to tackle problems of intoxication and distraction.