A Revolution in Pedestrian Safety


A Revolution in Pedestrian Safety – Volvo’s automatic braking system now reacts to people as well as vehicles

Hot on the heels of its award-winning City Safety system, Volvo Cars has already unveiled the next phase in it’s commitment to building vehicles that don’t crash – the innovative new system with Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Safety.

Each new safety development from Volvo is another move closer to the company’s goal of a future without traffic accidents. ‘Vision 2020’, Volvo Cars short-term target, is that no one will be killed or injured in a new Volvo car by 2020. It’s a daunting task, but with developments such as the new Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, Volvo is confident that this goal will be met.

Volvo Cars will be unveiling its next generation of preventive safety technology, Pedestrian Safety, in conjunction with the new Volvo S60 in 2010.

Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Safety represent the next stage in Volvo Cars’ continuous development of technology that detects risky situations and help drivers avoid accidents.

Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Safety builds on the City Safety system, made famous in the spectacular Volvo XC60, and takes it one step further. City Safety is designed to entirely avoid or minimise rear-end collisions through sensors that detect when the vehicle is getting too close to the one in front of it. The biggest challenge with the Pedestrian Safety system was to refine the sensors to recognise humans – adults and children – in addition to vehicles.

“The previous stages were developed to help the driver avoid collisions with other vehicles. Now we are taking a giant step forward with a function that also boosts safety for unprotected road-users. What is more, we are advancing from fifty percent to full automatic braking power. To our knowledge, none of our competitors have made such progress in this area,” explains Thomas Broberg, safety expert at Volvo Cars.

“This technology helps us take an important step towards our long-term vision of designing cars that do not crash. Our aim for 2020 is that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo”, he adds.

Accidents with pedestrians common in urban traffic
In the EU, the proportion of pedestrians figuring in overall traffic fatalities varies between 10 and 25 percent depending on the country. In the EU countries’ capital cities, 1,560 people died in road accidents in 2007. Of these, 43 percent were pedestrians.

Avoids collisions at speeds below 25 km/h
The speed of a car is of considerable significance to the outcome of an accident and the risk of a pedestrian being killed in an accident at 50 km/h is 85 percent higher than at a speed of 25 km/h.

“Our aim is that this new technology should help the driver avoid collisions with pedestrians at speeds below 25 km/h. If the car is travelling faster, the aim is to reduce the impact speed as much as possible. In most cases, we can reduce the collision force by about 75 percent. Considering the large number of pedestrian fatalities that occur, if we manage to reduce the fatality risk with 20 percent this new function will make a big difference. In specific situations the fatality reduction can be up to 85 percent”, says Thomas Broberg.

This technology is also highly beneficial in the event of rear-end impacts with other vehicles. Statistics reveal that half of all drivers who hit another vehicle from behind do not brake at all prior to the collision.

The main aim is still for the initial warning to be sufficient for the driver to brake or manoeuvre away from the hazard. If the driver does not respond to the warning, only then does the system step in with full braking force moments before a collision is imminent. In such cases, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake can entirely avoid a collision if the relative speed difference between the two vehicles is less than 25 km/h.

Safer detection with state-of-the-art technology
Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Safety consists of a new dual-mode radar unit integrated into the car’s grille, a camera behind the inside rear-view mirror and a central control unit. The radar and camera continuously monitor the road in front of the car. The radar’s task is to detect objects and measure the distance to them. The camera’s function is to determine what type of objects they are.

As before, the system is programmed to respond to cars in front that are at a standstill or moving in the same direction. Thanks to the state-of-the-art radar, which has a far wider field of vision than before, pedestrians about to step into the roadway can be detected early. What is more, the camera has better resolution than in the previous generation, allowing the system to monitor pedestrians’ movement patterns.

“We’ve been working on this technology for ten years now. We have had test cars out on the roads for several years and we’ve driven in many different countries. Factors like traffic behaviour, road conditions and climate must be taken into account in the design of the final system. We can also use the information from these real-life traffic tests to conduct advanced computer simulations,” says Thomas Broberg.

New technology permits full braking power
In an emergency situation, the driver first gets an audible warning together with a flashing light in the windscreen’s head-up display. In order to prompt an immediate, intuitive reaction, the visual warning is designed to look like a brake light coming on. If the driver does not respond to the warning and the system assesses that a collision is imminent, the car’s brakes are applied with full braking power.

“Active brake deployment requires that the object is confirmed by both the radar and the camera. Thanks to state-of-the-art sensor technology, it is now possible to engage full braking power. We are probably among the very first in the world to offer full-braking protection for pedestrians. The system is built along the same principles as the human eye and, just like our own eyes, vision is impaired in the dark and in poor weather”, says Broberg.

Upgraded Adaptive Cruise Control
Volvo’s Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) has now been upgraded with a function that in combination with automatic transmission even operates at very low speeds. What is new is that the radar-based adaptive cruise control system maintains the set gap to the car in front all the way down to standstill. This means that this comfort-enhancing system becomes usable even in slow-moving queues with repeated starting and stopping. The previous version was not active at speeds below 30 km/h.

City Safety – prevents low-speed collisions
City Safety was introduced as standard in the new Volvo XC60. The technology was developed in-house by Volvo Cars and can reduce or even entirely avoid impacts at speeds below 30 km/h. In both heavy city traffic and when driving in slow-moving queues, rear-end collisions are a very common accident scenario. About 75 percent of all collisions occur at speeds below 30 km/h, and studies show that in 50 percent of these cases, the driver has totally failed to brake prior to the collision.

With City Safety, the car brakes automatically if the driver fails to respond in time when the vehicle in front slows down or stops. If the relative difference between the speeds of the two vehicles is less than 15 km/h, the collision is avoided entirely. If the speed difference is between 15 and 30 km/h, the speed of impact is lowered to reduce the severity of the collision and the subsequent consequences.

Awarded for its safety leadership
Thanks to the XC60 and City Safety, Volvo Cars has amassed a large number of awards from various safety institutes and insurance companies for the system’s innovative ability to reduce both personal injury and damage to vehicles.

For example, the Volvo XC60 and City Safety have been given the award for Innovation of the Year 2009 by Dutch magazine Autoweek.

“Safety scores. We are really proud over this award,” says Ad van Batenburg, Managing Director of Volvo Cars Netherlands.

The list below details the awards received in 2008 and thus far in 2009:

  • Centro Zaragoza (CZ) (Spain/Portugal)
  • Auto Hoje 2009 (Portugal)
  • Paul Pietsch Award 2009 (Germany)
  • What Car? SUV of the Year 2009 (UK)
  • SUV of the Year 2009 (Chile)
  • Golden Klaxon, Best Crossover 2009 (Russia)
  • FuturAuto 2009 (Belgium)
  • SUV and Crossover of the Year 2009 (Singapore)
  • SUV and Crossover of the Year 2009 (Ireland)
  • Auto Trophy 2008 (Germany)
  • L’Automobile Magazine 2008 (France)
  • Autocar Magazine 2008 (Greece)
  • Thatcham Fleet World Honours Awards 2008 (UK)
  • Traffic Safety Achievement Award 2008, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (USA)
  • Auto Reveu Award 2008 (Austria)
  • Autoweek, Innovation of the Year 2009 (the Netherlands)