Volvo celebrates 80 years of safety


Some principles never change. And after 80 years of safety advances from Volvo, the philosophy expressed by the company’s founders is more appropriate than ever:

“Cars are driven by people. Therefore the guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo is – and must remain – safety” (Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson)

Volvo celebrated its 80th anniversary in April – just a month after the world premiere of the all-new Volvo V70 and XC70 in Geneva.

As always, new Volvo models come with improved safety features, and the new arrivals are equipped with extended inflatable curtains which, in combination with adjustable child booster cushions, belt force limiters adapted for children and a strong side structure, help to provide children of different heights with effective protection in a side collision.

Child safety has always been important to Volvo, which introduced the first rear-facing child seats on the market as early as in the 1960s.

The philosophy of the founding fathers has provided the basis for many other new safety features over the years. One example is the safety cage, which was introduced in the Volvo PV 444 in 1944, together with the laminated windscreen, and was among the first major safety features in the company’s cars. The three-point safety belt – the most important of all Volvo’s inventions – appeared in 1959.

This is considered to be one of the technical inventions that has saved most lives in the history of mankind. Side-impact protection (SIPS) was introduced in 1991 and the WHIPS whiplash protection system in 1998. In today’s models, the crumple zone introduced in 1966 has been refined with the use of four different grades of steel to optimise the absorption of collision forces.

For the last 37 years, Volvo’s own accident research team has been studying and learning from accidents involving Volvo cars. The team provides Volvo’s research and development function with vital knowledge on a continuous basis.

Volvo envisages a future in which the traffic environment will be completely safe. In this vision, cars will be equipped with intelligent systems that will not only help to improve driver alertness, but may even take control of the car if the driver does not react in sufficient time to avoid an impending emergency. This work is already in full progress. The latest Volvo cars incorporate several advanced safety systems that assist the driver in this respect. These include BLIS, which warns of vehicles in the blind spot and Collision Warning with Brake Support which, in addition to visual and audible warnings, ‘primes’ the brakes to help avoid a collision with the vehicle in front.

“The thrust of our new safety philosophy is to place human capability at the centre of our research work and future systems development. The objective is to help the driver to keep his or her hands on the wheels and eyes on the road,” explains Ingrid Skogsmo, director of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, who was named Woman of the Year 2006 by the influential trade magazine Automotive News.

City Safety, which was unveiled for the first time in the XC60 Concept at the Detroit Motor Show earlier this year, represents yet another step towards this vision. The system itself can, in some situations, apply the brakes to avoid a collision and Volvo Cars hopes that its use will prevent half of all  rear-end collisions. City Safety is scheduled for commercial introduction within the next two years.

Milestones in 80 years of Volvo safety:

  • 1944     Safety cage
  • 1944     Laminated windscreen
  • 1959     Three-point safety belts in front seats
  • 1960     Padded dashboard
  • 1964     Prototype of first rear-facing child seat
  • 1966     Dual-circuit braking system
  • 1966     Crumple zones
  • 1967     Safety belts in rear seat
  • 1968     Head restraints in front seats
  • 1969     Three-point, inertia-reel safety belts in front seats
  • 1972     Three-point, inertia-reel safety belts in rear seats
  • 1972     Rear-facing child seat and childproof locks
  • 1972     Volvo Experimental Safety Car (VESC)
  • 1973     Collapsible steering column
  • 1974     Energy-absorbent bumpers
  • 1974     Crash-protected location of fuel tank
  • 1978     Child booster cushion
  • 1982     Anti-submarining protection
  • 1982     Wide-angle door mirrors
  • 1984     ABS (Anti-lock Braking System)
  • 1986     High-level brake light
  • 1986     Three-point safety belt in centre rear seat
  • 1987     Safety belt pretensioners
  • 1987     Driver airbag
  • 1990     Integrated child booster cushion
  • 1991     SIPS (Side Impact Protection System)
  • 1991     Automatic height adjustment of front safety belts
  • 1993     Three-point, inertia-reel safety belts standard in all seats
  • 1994     SIPS bags (side-impact airbags)
  • 1997     ROPS (Rollover Protection System) in C70 Convertible
  • 1998     WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System)
  • 1998     Inflatable side-impact curtain (IC)
  • 2000     Inauguration of Volvo Cars Safety Centre in Göteborg
  • 2000     ISOFIX attachment system for child seat
  • 2000     Dual-stage inflation airbags
  • 2000     Volvo On Call security and roadside assistance system
  • 2001     Volvo Safety Concept Car (SCC)
  • 2002     RSC (Roll Stability Control) active stability system in Volvo XC90
  • 2002     Further-developed ROPS
  • 2002     Lower front crossmember in Volvo XC90 to increase safety compatibility with lower cars
  • 2002     Development of virtual, pregnant crash dummy
  • 2003     IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System)
  • 2003     New, patented front-end structure for increased collision protection
  • 2004     BLIS (Blind Spot Information System)
  • 2004     DMIC (Door-mounted Inflatable Curtain) for convertibles
  • 2004     ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control)
  • 2005     Volvo CoDriver support system (concept)
  • 2005     Volvo MultiLock (research project)
  • 2005     Driver Alert warning system for fatigued drivers (concept)
  • 2006     Personal Car Communicator with heartbeat sensor
  • 2006     Active Bi-Xenon lights with swivelling headlamps
  • 2006     Collision Warning with Brake Support
  • 2007     Volvo City Safety system for avoiding low-speed collisions (concept)
  • 2007     Second generation of WHIPS whiplash protection system
  • 2007     New, stronger side structure using different grades of high-strength steel
  • 2007     Integrated two-stage child booster cushion with force limiter adapted for children
  • 2007     Extended inflatable curtains for enhanced child safety