Volvo Car Group’s (Volvo Cars) ingenious new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) not only offers elegant new design possibilities, but brings the company even closer to its ultimate safety goal – that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo.
Recent independent data from STRADA (Swedish Traffic Accident Data Acquisition) show that injury rates in modern Volvos are 60% less than the average modern vehicle in Sweden, which in turn has one of the lowest injury rates in the world.
SPA enables Volvo to make significant safety improvements for worst-case scenarios as well as providing a platform to create innovative new features that help the driver to avoid accidents.
“We retain our uncompromising attitude to offering superior crash protection,” says Jan Ivarsson, Senior Manager, Safety Strategy and Requirements at Volvo Cars. He adds: “The new architecture opens up for further improvements. Seven per cent of the safety cage in the original XC90 was made of hot-formed boron steel. The structure in the upcoming all-new XC90 features over 40 per cent hot-formed steel, which translates into significantly improved strength but without adding mass or weight.”
Unique electrical architecture
Volvo’s SPA includes a ground-breaking new electrical architecture that makes the cars more ‘intelligent’ than ever. The electrical layout makes it easier to add sophisticated functions and rapidly implement advances in fast-moving areas such as microprocessor, sensor and camera technology.
In principle, the electrical architecture consists of a network with four domain masters – vehicle dynamics, safety, car body and infotainment.
“Each domain master can be connected to every single unit across the system. This means that we have one single nerve system with full control over all the connections in the vehicle. This is unique in the industry,” says Peter Mertens.
A holistic system built around people
The driver is the core of Volvo Cars’ holistic approach, which is based on real-life traffic situations - he or she is surrounded by a 360° buffer zone - technology that cushions the driver, but still keeps them in contact with the world:
Embracing the driver
In a Volvo, the driver and passengers are embraced by systems that are designed for intelligent absorption of energy in various types of collisions. This includes safety belts, pre-tensioners, whiplash protection system, airbags and inflatable curtains, which are all continuously being enhanced.
In cars built on the new SPA architecture, the smart safety-belt pre-tension systems increase the retention of occupants before, after and during the event of a collision. For example, rearward-facing radar is used to detect a rear impact and this allows the safety belts to be tightened in advance in order to keep the occupants in place.
The new, patented SPA safety cage, with its mix of different steel grades, has been made stronger and smarter. The superior strength is achieved by more extensive use of boron steel.
Camera, radar and sensor capabilities are extended to detect more objects around the car and to offer support at higher speeds and in more situations, such as at crossings.
“One of the most important focus areas within collision-avoidance is to help prevent unintentional road departures by autonomous steering intervention in critical situations. Unintentional road departure is the collision type that results in most deaths and serious injuries in modern traffic,” says Jan Ivarsson.
Enhancing the driving experience
The collision-avoidance sensors form part of a bigger network of systems that include Volvo’s comfort and luxury features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with steer assist, introduced in the upcoming all-new XC90. This enables the car to automatically follow the vehicle ahead in front. Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture is also designed to accommodate the implementation of autonomous technologies all the way to self-driving cars.
Seeing around the corner
SPA allows Volvo to extend the driver’s theoretical field of vision beyond the capacity of the camera, radar and sensors. With Car2Car and Car2Infrastructure technology in place, vital information can be shared and exchanged with other vehicles and surrounding infrastructure – creating a more comfortable and safer drive.
This opens up a multitude of safety and support possibilities, such as obtaining road friction information, advance warnings and detour options to avoid queues and finding free parking spots.
Always in touch with the world
This advanced connectivity can be used to make driving safer and more comfortable – but bringing it into the driver’s seat is also a challenge from a safety perspective.
The desire to stay online may divert the driver’s focus from the road, and this is where Volvo Cars believes autonomous drive will play a vital role in the future.
“Allowing the car to act automatically is crucial when moving towards the vision that future cars will not crash at all. The technologies enabled by our new Scalable Product Architecture will bring us significantly closer to this ultimate goal,” concludes Jan Ivarsson.