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Transportation Technology

Building the Zero-Fatality Car 509

CWmike writes "In the future, new cars might include an appealing sticker: 'This car is rated for zero fatalities.' John Brandon reports that Volvo, for instance, has launched a program called Vision 2020, which states, 'By 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo.' It includes not just new protective measures in the car, but technology for communicating dangers to and from the car. Other car companies have similar, less formalized programs. As ambitious as it seems, Ed Kim, an analyst at automotive research firm AutoPacific, says the zero-fatality goal is achievable. In the next 10 years, there will be a confluence of safety technologies — such as road-sign recognition, pedestrian detection and autonomous car controls — that lead to safer cars, says Kim. Will your next car look something like this?"
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Building the Zero-Fatality Car

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  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by neonmonk ( 467567 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:45AM (#33160900)

    I need a car metaphor.

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      In the future, we will finally have flying cars [].

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

      by TrisexualPuppy ( 976893 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:10AM (#33161364)

      I need a car metaphor.

      So, basically, imagine lots and lots of corporations as cars on a busy Interstate. On one hand, we have SCO which was a tanker truck filled with benzene and toxic sludge going to the nearest creak to offload, but before it got there, it had a catastrophic wreck and burned for a while. As a matter of fact, the sludge was so nasty that it has been burning for several years, and fire crews have not been able to extinguish it.

      As for the zero-fatality car, let me put it this way. Since the Interstate (the world-wide work force) is still blocked with toxic sludge and fire (the recession and its causes), nothing is getting done, and Volvo isn't selling as well as it did. In order to appease shareholders temporarily and raise Volvo's stock for the next week or two, Volvo has decided to build a vehicle that not only can withstand any wreck, but since it is zero-fatality, you just can drive right through that fire and toxic sludge and be on your merry way to economic recovery.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

      by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:48AM (#33162048) Homepage

      Will you settle for a ship metaphor?

      This is like rating a passenger vessel as "unsinkable".

  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:46AM (#33160934) Homepage

    Go go gadget Car-From-Demolition Man!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I don't know if you've seen TFA or just making a quick joke but a comparison between the main picture and a google image search for "demolition man car" shows that you're basically spot on!

  • Not good enough (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nysus ( 162232 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:47AM (#33160940)

    Come talk to me when they figure out the "zero fatality life."

  • There is no zero (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:48AM (#33160952)
    Zero is a figment of your imagination. You can only ever approach it, more and more expensively.
    • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:04AM (#33161260) Homepage Journal


      How many times have you had sex with a living female human being this week?

      Thought so.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward


        and it was expensive

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)


          So you started at 11:45 pm last week and finished at 12:45 am this week (hence 0.75 times this week). That's pretty typical for a college Saturday night/early Sunday morning. But usually it's free of charge.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by alvinrod ( 889928 )

            But usually it's free of charge.

            Some people buy movie tickets, flowers, and dinner. Some just pay a hooker. Either way you're paying for sex.

            If you really wanted to pedantic about it, there's also opportunity cost. Think of all of the other exciting things you could be doing, such as coding or watching Gentoo install.

      • Untrue.

        How many times have you had sex with a living female human being this week?

        Thought so.

        I find it curious that you felt it necessary to qualify that in three separate ways: "living", "female", and "human".

    • Yes, "zero" is not feasible on an open road where other people can drive cars that don't prevent them from doing stupid things.

      However, smarts that decrease the risk of being involved in an accident and which decrease the speed and increase control during an accident go a long way to reducing not only fatalities but injuries.

      Mechanical safety features like stability control, rollover and cabin-crush-in prevention, improved air bags and seat belts, and other features increase survivability.

      So, can we ever ge

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by timeOday ( 582209 )
      There were zero [] commercial airline deaths in the US in both 2007 and 2008. (Maybe some since, I don't know). Granted, I don't seriously expect privately driven vehicles to ever approach that (just as civil aviation does not), and over a long enough time horizon, 0 approaches impossible.
  • In a Volvo? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jojoba86 ( 1496883 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:48AM (#33160958)

    By 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo

    But what about those outside the Volvo?

    • Re:In a Volvo? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zironic ( 1112127 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:54AM (#33161062)

      "The goal is unique in that Volvo Cars has designated a year and is showing a social responsibility that also extends to people in other vehicles and pedestrians," says Anders Eugensson, safety expert at Volvo Cars. "We are very clear about the fact that our cars should not negatively affect other people at the moment of an accident. In addition, no unprotected roadusers should be seriously injured or killed."

    • The missing piece in the article:

      by 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed by a new Volvo

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Better you than me, buddy!

    • by GuldKalle ( 1065310 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:21AM (#33161586)

      Maybe they plan to use ejector seats. If the car senses a dangerous situation, you are promply ejected from it to protect the reputation of Volvo.

  • prior art (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:49AM (#33160968) Homepage

    They can use some of the same technology as was utilized on this motorcycle: []

  • Auto-car. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:50AM (#33160984)

    I'm really interested in the promise of an automated car that you don't have to get a license for or actually drive. They would be inherently safer, even taking failures into consideration. Of course, this will never fly (in America, at least) because we have this mentality that we need to be actively behind the wheel of a six ton three-story tall truck with twelve wheels, wider than two lanes of traffic, with a pair of truck-nuts dangling off the back. To pick our snot-nosed kids up from the grade school.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Joce640k ( 829181 )

      Snowflake won't have enough leg room in anything less!

    • yes, i would love that. Then people would run around with HERC cannons and watch the mayhem, put it on youtube.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      To paraphrase Mr Heinlein, "forget Republican or democrat, left or Right; there are two kinds of people in the world, those who wish to control others, and those who have no such desire."

    • Re:Auto-car. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:19AM (#33161540) Journal
      I suspect the bigger trick; beyond the technology(if GPSes with pre-digested machine-format maps, and RTS units in fully computer-generated environments, with perfect knowledge of the location of all objects in the virtual space, are still fucking it up, real world systems with sensors and machine vision and stuff have a way to go...) will be the liability allocation.

      With human controlled cars, the human is presumed to be the responsible agent, unless the vehicle can specifically be proven to be at fault(ie. brake failures under normal use, flipping over and catching fire if you tap a wall at 10mph, spontaneous acceleration, etc.). Humans are actually pretty miserable drivers, especially the distracted, tired, intoxicated, bored, old, trying-to-outrun-the-cops, and other pathological case ones; but the liability for the deaths, injuries, and property damage caused is spread out across a huge number of them in a fairly thin layer.

      Now, if the car were automated, there would be a strong case to be made that the car, and thereby its manufacturer, is the responsible agent. Even if a car achieved, say, a factor of 10 reduction in accidents(not wildly implausible, with some technological advance), the amount of liability incurred by the manufacturer would be absolutely crippling.

      It would take a sea-change in how accident liability is allocated for automated vehicles to make it out of test tracks, rail systems, and specific instances(like antilock brakes).
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rude Turnip ( 49495 )

      They're called taxis. You get in and use voice commands to tell it where to go. Or, hop on a bus and take a pre-determined route.

  • by complacence ( 214847 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:50AM (#33160994)
    The zero-fatality car is stationary and has no passenger or pilot space.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Two hundred years ago a horseless carriage was impossible. 150 years ago an airplane was impossible. 100 years ago a computer was impossible. 50 years ago a cell phone was impossible.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 )
        But none of those technologies are impaired by basic human stupidity. Take a look at the car in TFA, all they do is warn the driver. There's nothing stopping some idiot doing 200kmh in a mountain road and then flying off the side of the cliff. It's no consolation that there will be a "lane departure" warning light flashing as you're falling to your doom.

        As cars have gotten safer they have also gotten far more powerful. The fact that a 16 year old can get behind the wheel of a 250kW vehicle is a scary tho
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Nope... Sadly, car bombs have proven that a stationary car with no (remaining) passenger or pilot space can be quite fatal.
  • So how about the pedestrians?

  • NOTICE! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ae1294 ( 1547521 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:51AM (#33161004) Journal

    WARNING: You are exceeding the speed-limit by 5 mph, we will alert the authorities...

    WARNING: Your car is overdue for it's monthly maintenance check and will not start after august 1.

    WARNING: You took that corner too fast for current conditions, we have alerted the authorities.

    WARNING: Your car has exceeded it's 5 year life span and has been terminated. Please contact your dealer for a great deal on a new one.

  • by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:51AM (#33161010) Homepage
    The way to achieve perfect security for a computer is unplug it from the network, and never turn it on. I guess the only way to prevent anyone from ever dying in a new Volvo is to prevent them from entering it...
    • .... if you limit the speed to 30mph and fit missile launchers to destroy anything which comes towards you at more than 30mph

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zerth ( 26112 )

      Seriously. I have a vision of somebody with a bumper sticker that triggers other cars' pedestrian avoidance system to slam on the brakes because it sees a "person". That'd be lovely on the highway.

  • Terminator car (Score:4, Insightful)

    by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:53AM (#33161042)

    Think of the military applications! The Army should start putting every soldier in a new Volvo. You can shoot at them, you can bomb them, you can even throw tactical nukes at them...but they keep coming!

    Should we be worried about the coming Swedish blitzkrieg?

  • 2020 (Score:2, Insightful)

    'By 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo.'

    By 2020, nobody may be able to afford a new Volvo, so we'll keep driving the 20 year old deathtrap ones.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      Volvo drivers are shitty at driving anyway. They buy a car because they assume they'll hit a lot of things.
  • by Mortiss ( 812218 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:55AM (#33161094)

    As much as Id like to believe all these new and wonderful technologies, I wouldn't underestimate the ability of human beings to inflict a grevious harm on themeselves in the most creative ways. You may have the zero-fatality car but the guy plowing into you head first might not and the result would most likely be just as fatal. OTOH, every bit of safety counts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tigre ( 178245 )

      Worse yet, the more safety measures you add on, the less people feel they need to pay attention so it can make the relatively few failures more catastrophic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dkleinsc ( 563838 )

      And of course, there's an excellent source of proof that human beings can get themselves killed in amazingly stupid ways: The Darwin Awards [].

  • 'By 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo.'

    To the guy who said

    But what about those outside the Volvo?

    its still a good question though, those outside matter. I hope Volvos goals are not so narrow they haven't forgotten them.
    Plus I hope this is't a marketing ploy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by omar.sahal ( 687649 )
      Now I also advise read the article first

      The goal is unique in that Volvo Cars has designated a year and is showing a social responsibility that also extends to people in other vehicles and pedestrians,

      . Please heed this advise kids before its to late, and you make an ass of your self.

      • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:25AM (#33161640) Journal

        Please heed this advise kids before its to late, and you make an ass of your self.

        For instance, by failing to correctly spell common English words generally taught at the 4th grade level while condescendingly lecturing others.

        Ditto for mis-punctuation and general poor communications skill.

        But kudos for violating the long-standing Slashdot taboo against reading the article.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:56AM (#33161108)
    My car hasn't killed anyone yet either, meaning it too is a zero-fatality car. And I'll get a new one, if it does. Also how much are these cars going to cost for this improvement in safety? I'd rather occasionally kill people with my car slightly more often than pay a huge amount extra for a minuscule safety improvement. More important, the insurance costs on my car (a 92 Honda Civic BTW) are pretty low (around $50 a month in insurance). That's a concrete measure that indicates I already don't have much risk associated with the vehicle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sarten-X ( 1102295 )
      There are lots of cars just like yours, though, that have been involved in collisions and killed their occupants or others. maybe the driver wasn't paying attention. Maybe they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe that death could have been prevented with a slightly-different curve in the body.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SleazyRidr ( 1563649 )

      Well, I'd prefer to kill you than have to pay 5 cents extra for gas, but as a society we've decided that not killing people is a pretty good thing to do.

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:56AM (#33161112) Homepage

    The problem is that safety costs money. There's the materials involved, which aren't cheap. There's the engineering, which isn't (or shouldn't be) cheap. There's the electronics, which are getting cheaper. There's the redundancy, which isn't cheap. People don't like saving their own lives when it costs money or time to do so.

    That said, I sincerely hope this takes off, and that by some miracle of economics it's affordable. We have the technology...

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      The problem is that safety costs money.

      Economy of scale is in full swing when it comes to cars. We have a billion or so of them on the roads, it is quite easy to drive down prices at that scale. Do you remember when airbags were expensive extras?

  • by Timothy Brownawell ( 627747 ) <> on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:00AM (#33161202) Homepage Journal

    ...a semi truck falls off of an overpass and lands on top of one?

    ...a semi truck going 200mph the other direction crosses the median?

    ...a semi truck going 200mph on the other road runs a red light?

    ...that logging truck in front of you loses its cargo?

    ...that banana truck in front of you loses its cargo, and sends you through the guardrail? run out of gas while crossing the train tracks?

    ...some idiot leaves their kids in one with windows up for "just a couple minutes" during the middle of summer?

    ...someone decides to carjack you?

    • Wait... You can get a semi to 200mph?

      On a serious note... There's no excuse for the kid left in the car. But there is existing technology to handle this: If there's a person in the car and the interior temperature exceeds x, automatically roll down the windows and set off the alarm.

    • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:46AM (#33161998)
      ...a semi truck falls off of an overpass and lands on top of one? - car won't drive under bridges
      ...a semi truck going 200mph the other direction crosses the median? - car accelerates to 201MPH, in reverse
      ...a semi truck going 200mph on the other road runs a red light? - see above
      ...that logging truck in front of you loses its cargo? - car grows wings, flies over obstruction
      ...that banana truck in front of you loses its cargo, and sends you through the guardrail? - ejector seat, you're no longer in the car if you die run out of gas while crossing the train tracks? - ejector seat again
      ...some idiot leaves their kids in one with windows up for "just a couple minutes" during the middle of summer? - warranty only applies to owner
      ...someone decides to carjack you? - car only comes with pink paintwork, no-one would want to steal that.
  • Why wait a decade when you can just remove the seat belts and install a big spike in the centre of the steering wheel? I can't see very many people who are going to drive dangerously in *that* vehicle.

    Well, not more than once...
  • That 0-fatality will apply if some idiot manages to drive it off of a bridge, especially if it ends up in a river.
  • ...about the problems with a zero-fatality society?

  • by AhabTheArab ( 798575 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:08AM (#33161330) Homepage
    Is that something like the unsinkable Titanic?
  • by Vectormatic ( 1759674 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:08AM (#33161334)

    Volvo has just been bought by Geely, a chinese firm.

    Sure the chinese have promised to keep volvo volvo, not to mess with the whole swedish safety stuff, but what car brand has ever been taken over and NOT changed significantly towards the new parent company? Hell, all current volvos sit on Ford chassis.

    Good luck making a zero fatality car with the chinese at the helm...

  • My Pet Rock Car from the 70's ( [] ) has never had a fatality.

    Now, if I could only remember where I parked it . . .

  • > 'By 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo.'

    Might happen if, by 2020, nobody shall be in a new Volvo at all.

  • The idiots will find new and more idiotic ways to kill themselves. Or worse, kill those around their volvo. I wonder if the zero-fatality car would have to include a way of measuring the driver's blood-alcohol level?
  • Zero-fatality cars are simple. You need to have them move no faster than 22km/h. That makes the greatest collision 44km/h, and that is not dissimilar to a collision between athletes. That said, the overall goal is not ridiculous. More people died in the 20th century of car accidents than by war.
  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:15AM (#33161442) Homepage

    Car: Your ex-husband has a gun. He seems agitated.
    Car: His blood pressure is rising, and his pupils are dilated.
    Car: Considering prime directive of zero fatalities in a new Volvo...
    Car: ...Solution calculated. Please exit the vehicle.

  • A lot of these vehicle status broadcast systems they're proposing rely on accurate location data for the vehicles, and quite often the term "GPS" is used to infer that's what they'll be using as a source.

    Anyone who's driven a car inside a tunnel or inside a building/carpark knows that GPS is shit and doesn't work unless you're out in the open. Locations in tunnels could probably be taken care of with low-power FM beacons sending their lat/long/AMSL at regular intervals through the tunnel (additional infrast

  • Fatally flawed!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by myxiplx ( 906307 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:16AM (#33161462)

    Great concept, but there are some rather glaring problems.

    Let's take the "Pedestrian detection with auto brake" feature for example: []

    Lovely in theory, except for all the moronic teens who will delight in jumping out in front of Volvos confident that the car can't hit them. You're going to have idiot kids hit by drivers of old style cars, as well as a whole bunch of tail end collisions caused by this. It'd render roads near schools undrivable at closing time.

    Oh, and you have to love the fact that they're adding a warning light that flashes when it sees a problem. Which seems to miss the fact that the warning light itself is going to immediately distract you, and make it more likely that you're not going to see the pedestrian it's trying to warn you of.

    While backed by the best of intentions, I just can't see this becoming reality for a long while.

  • I liked the expanding foam protective material in the car from the movie Demolition Man. There is a great deal that can be done to make a car safe(r) but it is ridiculous to think that a car can truly be "zero fatalities". If you have ever seen what happens when it is car vs. train it would be prohibitively expensive to make a vehicle safe enough to take that title.

    In the human body there are many types of deceleration injuries that will kill you. Some are cou contra-coup brain injuries and accidents where

  • More Obese Cars? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rebmemeR ( 1056120 )
    So we'll cocoon ourselves in masses of materials designed to make us safe? You can talk about light materials but the overall trend is the opposite. Cars used to be under 2000 pounds and now they are 3500+ pounds, even with the materials technology gains we've had. Weight is the number one factor in determining fuel mileage. So we may avoid crashes, but then we will die from air pollution and other environmental footprint due to cars. We will feel safe driving air conditioned cars through globally-warmed de

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