Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The car that stops itself, and saves lives.

Just returned to the office after a life-changing experience - literally.

When Volvo launched the XC60 cross-over, it launched City Safety - a system that monitors cars traveling in front and, at speeds of less than 9mph, will avoid you crashing into it. The words counter-intuitive spring to mind. Here you are, driving along minding your own business and the car in front of you stops. Immediately the Volvo will apply the brakes to ensure that you don't crash into the back of the car in front. At speeds between 9 and 18mph, it will lessen the impact.

Now that's impressive, and it will certainly save those nasty repair bills but it won't save lives... until now.

I've just driven a prototype XC60 with technology that will be offered next year, and this will literally save lives. Using similar technology to City Safety, the Volvo is looking ahead for human-shaped objects. As soon as it detects a person in the road, or entering the road from the pavement, it slams the brakes on to avoid hitting it. And at speeds of up to 25mph, and maybe a little more.

50 years ago this August, Volvo invented the three-point seatbelt, but didn't patent it because it reaslied the significance of the invention in saving lives. Arguably, in 50 years time, we'll be celebrating a similiar anniversary except this time it will be a device that's saved as many pedestrians as the seatbelts as saved occupants.

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