Lifestyle

The cars that talk to each other

Using connected technology and the power of the cloud, Volvo Cars is pioneering next generation safety technology that allows cars to talk to one another and warn of dangers ahead. Here’s how it works.

WORDS: MATT RIGBY

Volvo’s cars are now sharing data about road conditions via the cloud

Cars that can talk to each other? This isn’t science fiction – it’s the cutting edge of vehicle safety technology. Cloud-based, collaborative technology means that cars can now communicate between themselves to warn drivers of dangers ahead.

And Volvo Cars is at the forefront of this road safety revolution. Using the collective power of people and the possibilities of big data and the cloud-based network, Volvos can now warn other Volvo drivers of broken-down cars ahead or hidden dangers such as black ice or oil spills.

Slippery Road Alert is a system that detects slippery conditions and alerts the driver that the road surface may not be ideal. It’s so sensitive that it can detect wheel slip even before ABS or the driver. Crucially, this information is also immediately shared with the cloud, enabling other Volvo drivers who are approaching the location of a slippery road to be given advanced warning so they can proceed with caution.

Another cloud-based safety function, currently in operation in Sweden and Norway, is Volvo Cars’ Hazard Warning Alert. When a car uses its hazard warning lights, this technology records the location of that event, so that any drivers approaching will know that there could be an incident or obstacle – like a stationary car – up ahead. You get up-to-date information about potential danger before the problem is even in your view, so you’re fully prepared to take appropriate action.

And all this data is anonymous, helping to allay any concerns over privacy. “We have designed the system in such a way that we will not keep track of individual cars,” says Erik Israelsson, head of car-to-car communication projects at Volvo Cars.

Cloud-based technologies like these are another step towards Volvo Cars’ vision that no one should be seriously injured in a new Volvo. It’s part of the joined-up thinking that powers its unique approach to safety – including a desire to extend the use of this technology beyond Volvo.

Back in 1959, Volvo Cars gave away the patent for the three-point safety belt so we all could benefit. Sixty years on, the company continues to recognise the importance its innovations can have for all – not just its customers. As Volvo Cars CEO, Håkan Samuelsson, says about cloud-based technologies: “We think this type of data sharing should be done for free – for the greater good and wider benefit of society.”

“Slippery Road Alert and Hazard Warning Light are another step towards Volvo Cars’ vision that no one should be seriously injured in a new Volvo”

Following its successful launch in Norway and Sweden, Volvo Cars will soon begin to extend its connected safety technology innovations to other European markets, including the UK, where it will make its debut in 2019. But it’s also looking to expand what it can do. For example, data about where slippery roads are situated could be shared with road authorities to help them improve maintenance. And by working closely with other manufacturers, the technology could eventually be used for communication between all vehicles, not just Volvos, helping improve traffic flow and make cars more efficient.

For six decades, Volvo Cars has been sharing its pioneering, revolutionary technologies with the world. Now, with Slippery Road Alert and Hazard Warning Alert, the company will be doing so once again. “We want to be first and we want to lead – but we don’t want to be exclusive,” says Erik Israelsson.