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Transportation Technology

Volvo Introduces a Collision-Proof Car 743

Posted by kdawson
from the whoa-nellie dept.
carazoo.com sends along a story on Volvo's upcoming crash-proof car. The company will introduce a concept car based on the S60 this month at the Detroit Auto Show, looking ahead a few years to the goal that by 2020 "no one should be killed or injured in a Volvo car." The concept car will have forward-looking radar as a proximity sensor, and the ability to brake if a collision is imminent. When the car senses a collision, a light flashes on the windscreen display along with an audible warning. If the driver doesn't act, the car will brake automatically.
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Volvo Introduces a Collision-Proof Car

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  • by Sefert (723060) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:38AM (#26300639)
    Up here in northern Canada the roads can get mighty icy. Your car can brake for you all it wants, but that won't change the laws of physics as you're sliding on a sheet of ice towards a thousand pound moose.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:40AM (#26300667)

      Much like in Sweden, the country Volvo is based in (I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying I strongly doubt Volvo hasn't thought of that).

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:55AM (#26300857) Journal

        That's what the steel spikes are for. They impale your tires and dig into the pavement in the event of traction loss. Gets rather expensive after hydroplaning a couple of times, though.

        In other news, Volvo has announced a cutting-edge strategy for surviving the economic slump through their exclusive partnership with Goodyear and Michelin....

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:22PM (#26301259)
          I was hoping the steel spikes were for the moose.
        • by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:45PM (#26301573)
          In Sweden (and other parts of northern Europe) it is allowed to drive on spiked tyres in winter; and many people actually do this. It is quite helpful when driving e.g. on the winter roads: frozen lakes. Those roads are opened every winter and are indicated on normal road maps.
    • A Moose... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Akardam (186995) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:59AM (#26300925)

      ... once got in the way of my sister's "crash-proof" Volvo.

      Mind you, moose crashes can be pretty nasti...

    • snow tires (Score:5, Informative)

      by OglinTatas (710589) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:12PM (#26301121)

      I tell everyone I know (in wintery climates anyway) to buy a good set (4, NOT 2) of snow tires. They all tell me to get stuffed because they have new "all season" tires (all season in Alabama, maybe) or they have a 4WD SUV or whatever. 4WD only helps you get going, not stop, and antilock brakes are only as good as the tires and the surface the tires are on. I do use snow tires in winter, and trust me, there is a world of difference! The only accident I was at fault in was an ice storm that caught me by surprise the day before I had intended to put on the ol' blizzaks. I left work at late at 8PM hoping to be the only person on the road. Began stopping what seemed like a reasonable distance for conditions, ABS kicked in as soon as I put my foot on the brake pedal and I slid all the way (under 25 MPH) into the back of the only other car on the road. New "all season" tires.

      With blizzaks, when ABS kicks in you actually stop. Been using them for eight years.

      GET SNOW TIRES. (I'm sure everyone in Canada already knows that. Few people around here seem to know or care.)

      • Re:snow tires (Score:4, Informative)

        by fprintf (82740) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:19PM (#26302147) Journal

        Just remember that Blizzak's actually wear rather quickly and turn into "all-season" tires after about a season's use of driving on mixed surfaces (e.g. snow and pavement). On the other hand, standard modern snow tires like the Nokian, still wear quickly due to their soft compound however they tend to last longer than a season or two simply because they have so much tread.

        See http://www.tirerack.com/winter/wintertesting.jsp [tirerack.com] for some in-depth reviews of tires *and a comparison between all-season and proper winter tires.

        Good on ya for driving with snow tires, just don't overestimate how long those Blizzak's actually last!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WarwickRyan (780794)

        You have more control if you drive out of it on ice than if you break.

        Been in a similar situation myself in 2003/4, and managed to get back home without hitting anyone. When it started sliding I didn't break, I used the gas to carefully change my direction.

        Mind you I've driven an American car in the past, and they handle like tanks. So there's probably little that you can do to control such vehicles on the ice..

    • more importantly (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thermian (1267986)

      What about the car behind you that can't brake as fast?

  • yeah well (Score:5, Funny)

    by loafula (1080631) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:38AM (#26300643)
    What if I crash into IT with my H2?
    • Then there would be just as much damage as in a regular car.
    • by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:24PM (#26301279) Journal
      Then you will continue to be a douche. Sorry, like the intrinsic unity of time and space, there is nothing in the known universe that can separate H2 drivers from douche-ness. Most philosophers believe that "what it is to be" an H2 driver is to be a douche...although apparently thousands of douches loudly, and rudely, take issue with this manifestly self-evident proposition...thus confirming it with empirical evidence.
  • And then.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gambit3 (463693) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:38AM (#26300645) Homepage Journal

    "When the car senses a collision, a light flashes on the windscreen display along with an audible warning. If the driver doesn't act, the car will brake automatically." ... and then you get rear-ended by the vehicle that was tailgating yours.

    Yeah. What could possibly go wrong here?

    • Re:And then.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by corsec67 (627446) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:40AM (#26300651) Homepage Journal

      Yeah. What could possibly go wrong here?

      The person tailgating gets a ticket for following too closely, reckless driving (not wreckless driving, though).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 (626475)
      Yep...unless this thing has an 'off' switch....no way I'd buy something like this.

      Personally, I like to go the other way, and have a car I can control as much as possible: manual transmission, manual brakes (yes, I know they are supposed to be better, but, ABS creeps me out and won't let me lock the brakes when I WANT to)...

    • ...you can get a pair of Peril Sensitive Sunglasses(TM) to wear too.
    • Re:And then.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dutch Gun (899105) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:12PM (#26301123)

      ... and then you get rear-ended by the vehicle that was tailgating yours.

      If the car has to brake to avoid a collision, and you get rear-ended because of it, then it seems likely it would have happened either way.

      Besides, you used to hear the same sort of arguments about seatbelts. "What if I plunge into a lake and can't get out?" or, "What if the car flips upside-down, catches on fire, and the seatbelt traps me?" At this point, everyone more or less realizes that you're significantly more likely to be involved in a simple collision where you'd be thrown out through the window and onto the pavement (possibly into traffic) without your seatbelt/airbag protecting you. Seatbelts protect against a very real and common danger at the potential expense of a very unlikely scenario. This seems no different to me.

      Will it be foolproof and 100% safe/effective? Well, look at airbags. They used to deploy too forcefully, and we learned via a few tragedies that kids can't be in the front seat. But at this point, you'd be insane to think that airbags don't save a lot of lives every year. It's the same thing that will happen with technologies such as these. Probably the thing to do is NOT be an early adopter, and let them work all the bugs out of the system first.

      That being said (worthy goal notwithstanding), this sure sounds like a lot of hubris, calling it an "accident-proof" car, or that "no one should die in a Volvo." I seem to recall something about an "unsinkable" ship a few years ago, and look how that turned out?

      • Re:And then.. (Score:4, Informative)

        by garett_spencley (193892) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:44PM (#26304033) Journal

        "Besides, you used to hear the same sort of arguments about seatbelts. "What if I plunge into a lake and can't get out?" or, "What if the car flips upside-down, catches on fire, and the seatbelt traps me?" At this point, everyone more or less realizes that you're significantly more likely to be involved in a simple collision where you'd be thrown out through the window and onto the pavement (possibly into traffic) without your seatbelt/airbag protecting you. Seatbelts protect against a very real and common danger at the potential expense of a very unlikely scenario. This seems no different to me."

        I recently completed a driver's ed course that made a very convincing argument that in those specific extreme scenarios seat-belts still increase your chances for survival. The showed us a video where they intentionally drove a car head-first into water and showed what would happen. If you weren't wearing a seat-belt the driver would be thrown forward creating a situation where he/she could be knocked unconscious or injured in such a fashion that would make it more difficult for the driver to escape via the side window.

        They also interviewed survivors who had been in cars that flipped up-side-down AND caught fire. These survivors claimed that the seat-belt did absolutely nothing to prevent their escape, but did keep them in their seat which helped prevent injury which could have made escaping the disaster much more difficult.

        The course actually convinced me that seat-belts should be mandated even though I used to feel otherwise. I still feel that adults should be able to take risks with their own lives if they so choose. However, the one thing that had I never considered before is that seat-belts help keep a driver in control of a vehicle and thus better able to prevent their vehicle from causing further damage to other drivers, pedestrians and property. Passengers can also become projectiles during a collision which can obstruct the driver's ability to bring the vehicle to safe stop without causing further damage.

  • spill proof cup holder too? I've always wanted one of those.
  • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:41AM (#26300677) Journal
    I bet that thing is a lot of fun in a demolition derby.
  • While everyone would laud the goal "that no one should be killed or injured in a Volvo car," it's a completely ridiculous objective. If a huge truck hits you from behind, you'll die. If you run out of gas on rail road tracks in front of a train, you will die. If you're going too fast in mountain passes and dive off a cliff, you will die.

    Unless Volvo has invented anti-gravity or a General Products Hull [wikipedia.org], this is a ridiculous piece of marketing that only the most stupidly ignorant could believe. Maybe the goal here is to give attention to Volvo, but the goal is so absurd that it seems like it has to bite them in the butt in some unforeseen way.

    • by blueg3 (192743) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:45AM (#26300709)

      Actually, a General Products hull won't save you. Cars already are less strong than the could be, because their squishy contents are too susceptible to high acceleration. A perfectly rigid car body would just kill its passengers.

    • by dmomo (256005) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:58AM (#26300903) Homepage

      Ahhh. You are missing a subtle point in their claim "that no one should be killed or injured *in* a Volvo car"! All they have to do is simply eject the passenger from the car so they die outside of the vehicle. ... ..

      Profit?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBCook (132727)
      It seems like a pretty reasonable goal under normal driving circumstances. Sure a car won't be able to handle a train, but I assume they are referring to standard highway driving with other vehicles withing a few dozen times the mass of yours.
  • wishful thinking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bobtree (105901) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:43AM (#26300689)

    This summer I had to ask two passengers in my car to buckle their seat belts.

    "Oh, you're that kind of driver?" one asked.

    I told them I'm not the driver they should be worried about.

    • Re:wishful thinking (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bennomatic (691188) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:55AM (#26300849) Homepage
      I once stopped dating a woman because she refused to buckle her seat belt. I said she could do whatever she wanted in her own car, but if I was driving, I wanted to reduce the likelihood that I'd have a mangled corpse on my hands if something unforeseen happened.

      Her reasoning? She didn't want to mess up her clothing. I decided that I couldn't have someone that vain and short-sighted in my life. The break-off was easy, though, since she decided my refusal to drive with her un-belted was a control issue, so we both went away happy.
      • by phorm (591458)

        I think I might have dated the same woman. She hated wearing a seatbelt, but for some reason would accept it if *I* buckled it for her. She also tried to bring her open beer into my car, insisting that if I really cared about her I wouldn't worry about a silly thing like roadside checks and fines, etc.

        I've met the type a few times since. Some women like to request unreasonable things in order to have men "prove" how much they value them over common sense. I've seen guys do similar things though in different

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by foniksonik (573572)

      Next time just let them be and then proceed to drive like a madman (make sure you have an open road)... speed up then brake randomly, swerve around for no reason.... maybe do a little drifting around a wide turn ;-p

      Then respond: "Yes, I'm THAT kind of driver!"

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IceCreamGuy (904648)
        I actually tell people to buckle their seatbelts, and, if asked about it, explain in no uncertain terms that yes, I am that kind of driver. Hey, A less-than perfect driver that knows they're not great is much better than a bad driver that thinks they're the best.
  • rear ended (Score:2, Interesting)

    by trybywrench (584843)
    what about getting rear ended? I would guess half of all avoided collisions resulted from the gas pedal and steering wheel instead of the break. Will the car accelerate away from danger when required? Steering too, I was driving late at night in mist when about a half dozen deer just appeared in the road. It took some heavy steering in addition to the break to avoid them.
  • by I_am_Rambi (536614) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:46AM (#26300723) Homepage
    Have Volvo engineers ever driven in ice and snow? If they haven't then they know that no vehicle is accident-proof. Accident-resistant maybe, but not accident-proof.

    Accident-proof == No matter what conditions you drive in, and no matter how you drive, you will not get into an accident.

    Accident-resistant == Depending on the conditions and driving patterns, there are extra features to help prevent an accident.

    If this car is accident proof, then I would expect to go 70 mph down an icy road and expect to stop in the same about of time that I expect to stop in excellent conditions without hitting the stopped car in front of me or going into the ditch.
  • internet wiseguys (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:46AM (#26300725) Homepage

    Before everyone here rushes to spout off edge-cases for which this may make things worse, I would like to remind you all that this is still a very good thing so long as it saves more lives than it kills.

    Yes, a piece of automation that occasionally kills people is a good thing if it saves even more lives.

    • Re:internet wiseguys (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bennomatic (691188) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:07PM (#26301049) Homepage
      I posted this above, but I think it fits here as well. Your comment about edge cases is true from a total life-saving perspective, but whether or not this is a commercial success may depend on the less extreme edge cases.

      What I mean is, if they see a 10-20% reduction in deaths in Volvos, but it turns out that this causes a 10-20% increase in minor accidents (those edge cases), or if people perceive the unwanted deceleration as a lack of control. Even if that perceived lack saved them from a much worse situation, or if the minor auto body damage saves them from death, popular response may be negative, and they might have to pull the features despite their success.

      It might be hard to convince someone that their car did a good thing for them when they're saying, "I totally had it under control, but the car took over, and the guy behind me hit me and bent my fender, cost me $1000." People might not be convinced that that $1000 saved them a $5000 front-end repair, or their lives.

      I remember one time, some dunderhead I knew in high school complained that her bike helmet was worthless. Why? Because when someone opened their car door in front of her, she flipped over, landed on her head, and the helmet cracked in two.

      She didn't even get it when I pointed out that that could have been her head. She was just upset that her $30.00 helmet was ruined. I don't mean to be pessimistic about general intelligence, but I'd say that kind of response might be more the rule than the exception.
      • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:25PM (#26301293) Homepage

        Have you ever met someone who was convinced that a specific safety feature in their car (or it's excellent engineering) saved their life?

        My family has met someone who was in a horrible high-speed accident in a Honda S2000 (little sports coupe) and walked away (cuts and bruises, I think) with the car totaled. They are convinced (and quite possibly right) that many other small soft-topped cars would have been lethal for in the same crash. They immediately went out and bought another one to replace it because it did such a good job (and was a nice car).

        Those people will tell their stories and it will spread. That's GREAT advertising. If your airbag goes off because of a minor collision just on the sensor it's annoying and expensive, but people were more willing to listen to the "airbag saved my life" stories than the "cost me $1500 I didn't need to spend" stories. Eventually they were made mandatory. I'm guessing this will work the same way.

        As I've said in other comments in this story, I'm more interested in everyone else having this system than having it myself, although I'd gladly take one.

        • Re:internet wiseguys (Score:4, Interesting)

          by YttriumOxide (837412) <yttriumox@gmai l . com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:30PM (#26302351) Homepage Journal

          Have you ever met someone who was convinced that a specific safety feature in their car (or it's excellent engineering) saved their life?

          Yes, me (I know your statement was in the positive about this, so I'm not arguing with you, just giving my own little story here).

          I was driving my company car in Australia (a Holden VZ Commodore Acclaim [wikipedia.org] (3.6 Litre "Alloytec" engine, 5 speed Automatic, Sedan body)) a couple of years back, and it was raining. As I was going through a roundabout, a guy came on in front of me WAY too close (I had right of way, but he claimed later that he didn't see me). Now, the Holden Commodore is a bit of a tank really - big, heavy and not so manoeuvrable compared to the "sportier" kind of cars I normally drive. I slammed my foot on the brake pedal and turned to move to the next lane of the roundabout - the ESP ("Electronic Stability Program [wikipedia.org]") did its job PERFECTLY and I made it off to the side of the roundabout without a collision. The other guy saw me at that point, and we both stopped just up the road, where he apologised.

          A couple of days later, it was raining again, and I was at a similar roundabout. I made sure there were no cars in any direction, turned off the ESP (the driver can toggle it on/off with a simple button press) and tried a similar manoeuvre to see what the car would do - the wheels locked, skidded on the wet road, the car spun around twice and ended up off the side of the roundabout (just a dirt patch, so it was fine to do). I am therefore EXTREMELY grateful for the ESP when I needed it.

    • Re:internet wiseguys (Score:4, Interesting)

      by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:25PM (#26301295)

      Popular sport amongst hoodlum gangsters around Tampa when the first airbag equipped police cars rolled out was "pop-a-cop," intentionally ram hard enough to get airbag deployment, effectively disabling the officers' ability to give chase for long enough to get lost in the city.

      I envision a really nifty radar spoofing device that would panic stop these Volvos without doing anything other than re-transmitting a modified radar pulse back at them... I'm sure the police wouldn't use such a system, but I can picture suburban geek troublemakers messin' with the soccer moms.

  • I can't wait until the lawsuits start coming in for people whose cars abruptly braked of their own accord, spilling steaming hot coffee into their nether regions. I will need employment.
  • My lst five car accidents have happend while my car was stationary The most recent one, the other car was being push-started and the moron lady drive drove into the side of my parked 4x4!

    No amount of collision sensing radar will protect you from side impacts while stationary. However, there might be something to be said for exocet missiles!

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:52AM (#26300815) Homepage

    Having done some work on automated driving [overbot.com], I have some misgivings about semi-automated driving. ABS, which is a huge advance in vehicle control, hasn't reduced accidents as much as it should. Driver overconfidence seems to increase in ABS-equipped vehicles. Merely adding automated braking, which has been around for years [roadranger.com], may not help with passenger cars. It would probably encourage tailgating. It's a big win for heavy trucks, but they have pro drivers. Those guys aren't aggressive drivers, mostly tired ones. Passenger car drivers aren't that consistent.

    Tailgating may be acceptable if there's a comm link between the car ahead and the car behind. That's been demonstrated successfully; if anybody in the chain starts to brake, everybody behind them brakes too. It needs to be coupled with enough smarts that not too many vehicles become a tight group, and a vehicle can't close up behind something that can stop shorter than it can.

    Studies of crashes by Mercedes indicate that 80% of accidents would have been avoided if braking started 500ms sooner. Those aren't the severe accidents, though.

    Anyway, while radar-controlled automated braking has its uses, it's not an answer in itself.

  • by x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:53AM (#26300835)
    I work for a civil engineering firm and we design roadways (often many miles long) and in doing so I often see accident reports spanning many years. The majority of highway accidents (especially at high speeds and especially fatal ones) could not have been prevented by one or both (or more depending on how many cars are involved) of the cars braking as soon as ANYONE or anything could tell an accident was imminent.

    Usually someone didnâ(TM)t look in their rearview mirror and changed lanes right into a car or someone fell asleep at the wheel and drifted across traffic and because of a split second lapse of attention someone is dead.

    Itâ(TM)s not a OH NOOOES THAT PERSON HAS BEEN STOPPED IN FRONT OF ME FOR 2 MINUTES BUT I DIDNâ(TM)T NOTICE AND NOW ITâ(TM)S TOO LATE TO BRAKE!!!

    A car comes over a hill in the highway going 30 over the speed limit (we design those speed limits on purpose and itâ(TM)s because of things like this) and thereâ(TM)s a disabled car with a blowout or engine problem in the road ahead of you and braking simply slows you down. You still hit the car and the lady standing in front of it looking helplessly at her engine still dies because you wanted to cut 5 minutes out of your drive time.

    There is also the question of allowing your car to decide when you should brake and ALL the potential hassles/problems/safety issues involved in that.

    Anyway, back to the point, if Volvo thinks that by installing some sensor in the bumper that will trigger the brakes if thereâ(TM)s something in front of you will keep people from dying in their cars they are pouring a lot of money down the garbage.

    This technology will solve 1 problem for all 50 it creates in a drivers experience.
  • Override? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chinton (151403) <chinton001-slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:56AM (#26300869) Journal
    What if I decide not to brake for the dog in front of me because of the 18-wheeler behind me?
  • Liability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wfstanle (1188751) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:56AM (#26300875)

    If anything prevents this idea from becoming reality, it's the issue of liability . Does any company want to take on the added liability that this concept entails. For example, if a car equipped with this crashes (and it will happen) who will be liable? Even if the company is found not to be at fault, there is the cost of proving it in court.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GameMaster (148118)

      That's easy. The "Collision-Proof" car will always be a prototype. It will never be a production model available for purchase. They will use it to get good PR for their brand while allowing a healthy distance from the idea that their production models are guaranteed to be collision proof. However, that doesn't mean that this is all useless hot air. Ideally, the more effective/economical technology developed for this prototype will trickle down to the production line. Once the more effective features h

  • Get on with it. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thesolo (131008) * <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:01PM (#26300971) Homepage
    Why don't they just get on with the computer-driven cars already? All you need to do is look at the tech coming out of car companies to see where we're headed.

    So where does that leave us? We now have cars that will follow other cars to the point of stopping entirely, can park themselves, will stay in the lane on their own (to a point)...the obvious goal here is to remove more & more of human input from driving.

    So can we just skip all of this crap and go right to the computer-driven car, so we never have to worry about insurance premiums, speeding tickets, drink-driving, falling asleep at the wheel, and all of the rest of the nonsense that goes along with cars?

    On the flip side, if you're a sports-car enthusiast, this is likely to be the last generation where one can purchase a raw, loud, driver's car. We're going to wind up like the character in Rush's Red Barchetta before we know it.

  • Code Name: (Score:5, Funny)

    by night_flyer (453866) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:03PM (#26301015) Homepage

    Titanic

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:38PM (#26301495)

    Fantastic. Yet another pseudo-automation that will likely translate into yet one more reason idiots think they don't need to pay attention while driving, and instead finish their phone call or text message.

  • by l00sr (266426) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:59PM (#26301827)

    I predict that by the year 2020, no one will be killed or injured in a GM, Chrysler, or Ford car either.

  • This isn't new. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:19PM (#26302145) Homepage

    The Acura RL has had collision sensing and avoidance as an option for several years, called the Collision Mitigation Braking System.

    http://www.acura.com/index.aspx?initPath=RL_Learn_FeaturesOptions_SafetySecurity_Braking_CollisionMitigationBraking [acura.com]

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