Project E.V.A. targets safety equality in all cars
For more than 20 years there has been a unique look to Volvo’s car seats and head restraints. And it’s not merely for aesthetics.
In 1998, Volvo Cars introduced the WHIPs whiplash protection system. It was a technology developed through the use of virtual crash-test dummies based on actual crash data – as well as studies that highlighted the differences in anatomy and neck strength between the average man and woman.
They showed women are more likely to suffer from whiplash injuries.
Surprisingly, the standard automotive crash-testing process continues to use male crash test dummies, developed from average-male measurements. As a result, women, children and all other people not corresponding to the average-male measurements have a higher chance of suffering more severe injuries in a crash.
This is why Volvo Cars has now launched Project E.V.A. – an initiative where, for the first time, the company is making its safety knowledge accessible to the car industry to use, in the interest of safer roads for all.
Project E.V.A. – based on Volvo Cars’ own research data as well as several other studies – highlights the fundamental issue with inequality in terms of car safety development.
“We have data on tens of thousands of real-life accidents, to help ensure our cars are as safe as they can be for what happens in real traffic,” says Lotta Jakobsson, professor and senior technical specialist at Volvo Cars Safety Centre.
“This means our cars are developed with the aim to protect all people, regardless of gender, height, shape or weight, beyond the ‘average person’ represented by crash test dummies.”
The Project E.V.A. announcement symbolises the company’s philosophy of boosting safety through sharing knowledge that helps saving lives. And it comes on the 60-year anniversary of what may have been the most important invention in the history of automotive safety: the three-point safety belt.
Introduced by Volvo Cars in 1959, the three-point safety belt is estimated to have saved more than one million lives globally. The figure is so high because Volvo took what was an unusual step in the competitive world of car manufacturing: it waived its patent in the interest of improving traffic safety, allowing other car makers to also fit the lap-sash seatbelt to all their cars.
Since then it has continued to prioritise societal progress over financial gain alone.
The idea of prioritising societal progress still drives safety-development work at Volvo Cars. It develops new technology to not only meet safety standards or pass regulatory tests, but because its own research data, based on a close analysis of tens of thousands of real-life accidents, shows where safety can be improved.
In the 1980s, Volvo Cars started to focus on side impacts, after its data showed that too many people were injured in such accidents due to the short distance between impact and occupant.
This resulted in several innovations starting in the 1990s, such as the side impact protection system (SIPS), side airbags and inflatable curtains. All these innovations, based on Volvo’s research data, now form an industry standard.
More recently, Volvo Cars’ research data showed an issue with lumbar spine, or lower back, injuries across all people, regardless of gender and size. Further analysis and study made Volvo focus on the dangers of run-off road injuries.
The resulting technology – introduced first on the XC90 and now on all 90- and 60-series cars – is an energy absorber in the seats that goes far beyond what is a regulatory requirement for car makers.