“Vision 2020 shows our direction for the future”

Jan Ivarsson, Deputy Director and Senior Technical Advisor Safety at Volvo Cars, talks about the thinking behind Vision 2020 and the actions that will make it a reality.

Is progress for Vision 2020 on schedule, and how do you measure it?
We use national data to understand our cars progress regarding serious injuries. If we look into that data we are on track and it’s a glide path down towards zero for serious injuries and fatalities by 2020. We launched the new XC90 in 2014 and that car will help us along the track.

Have you got data from every country?
We use Volvo unique consumer data in combination with Swedish national data as the basis and complement that with data from other countries. We have data from Germany, UK and the US, for example. 

The in-depth knowledge we have comes from our Swedish Volvo database. We have been collecting data for 45 years now, so that contains the information that you need to understand the causes of collisions, and what is happening with the car and the people inside it before and during an accident.

How much of a difference will the new models that use Volvo Cars’ Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) make to achieving the goal?

SPA is an improvement in all areas. Both in protecting people inside the car and in avoiding collisions. 

Regarding protective safety, we have enhanced the safety cage with up to 40% of high-strength boron steel. The new frontal architecture has improved energy absorption and protects against more collision situations. There is also a new generation of advanced safety belts that work better not just for on-road collisions, but also if the car leaves the road in an accident and hits bumpy terrain. These new restraints retract automatically, to protect people in the front seats more efficiently.

Of course we have made the next step regarding collision avoidance, too. We have added a radar camera positioned in the windscreen and that’s fundamental to an array of functionality for the XC90 and the coming cars on that architecture. 

How much of a role does different safety technology play in making Vision 2020 a reality? Does active technology, such as auto-braking and crash avoidance, make a greater difference than passive technology such as airbags and safety belts?
Protective safety is the backbone of safety performance in our cars. We have a long tradition of using knowledge from real life collisions to improve the safety of our cars. Now we are putting more and more of our expertise into collision avoidance. 

By putting this radar camera into the car as standard we can create more efficient safety solutions over the coming years. This is a really big investment – high-end technology that will benefit all our future models.

Our development is geared towards collision avoidance and active safety, but it's built on a very solid foundation of protective, passive safety in our cars.

How difficult is it to make a smaller car like the V40 as safe as larger ones?

Traditionally, if you compare a small car to a large one you have a difference in weight. You also have less space inside the car, which makes it a tougher challenge, and less distance for deformation on the outside to absorb energy. 

Using active safety you can work around this – size and weight will be less important in the future. As we develop new functions and sensors for the bigger cars these components will be standardised and filter through to the smaller cars, to give them the same high level of safety.

What are the major challenges that you face in making Vision 2020 a reality?
Right now it's analysing the huge volumes of data we need to cover all driving situations. We are addressing not just collisions, but also what is happening before the collision so we can understand why they happen.

As we move forward we also need strong technological development of the sensors that gather information for the system. They have to work all the time regardless of what is going on inside or outside the car. We have made an important step with the XC90 but we need more and better sensors for the future.

How big a contribution will autonomous and semi-autonomous technology make to Vision 2020? 

It’s a vital part of our future. We are starting with the less complex situations and will build up to avoiding the high-risk scenarios. The advanced technologies we develop within autonomous driving will be an important part of Vision 2020.

How much more has Volvo Cars learnt about how accidents happen as part of the Vision 2020 development – are there types of accident that are particularly common or harmful?
The most common accidents are those involving following cars – being in a traffic queue. The most severe ones are where the car leaves the road, those at intersections and head-on collisions. 

And Volvo Cars has concentrated on those in recent years with its run-off-road protection and intersection braking technologies…
Yes. It’s covering array of scenarios that’s important. We will have functions in the future that will address important areas such as detecting slippery roads and increased monitoring of driver behaviour to predict and avoid collisions.  

No other car manufacturer has attempted something like Vision 2020 – why do you think that is?

This safety vision is based on Volvo Cars’ commitment to safety. We know that our customers expect the best performance and most innovative safety offer on the market. With our unique customer data and engineering expertise we are able to deliver on the vision. 

A lot of the technology in the latest Volvos, or very similar technology, is available in other cars, though. What is it that makes Volvo Cars unique in the way it approaches safety?
It’s the knowledge about real crashes and the causes of them and also that the people in the car are the focus of the analysis. The technology must be relevant to the driver and the other people in the car. We need to have that focus to be pioneers in safety. 

What would you say to those that think Vision 2020 is an impossible dream?

Vision 2020 is a way of thinking and working. It’s our vision for the future. All the people involved understand what we’re doing. It’s like a religion at Volvo Cars, with everyone working in the same direction.