Hot on the heels of announcing a worldwide hard speed limiter earlier in the month, Volvo Cars has revealed the next stage of its safety mission.
Volvo aims to have no deaths in its vehicles by 2020. It already builds some of the safest vehicles to have a crash in, but that’s not enough. The brand is working hard on stopping the crash in the first place, and it’s doing that by trying to change driver behavior.
It’s identified three key areas where changing how drivers think about driving can reduce the rate of accidents most dramatically. Speeding is one of those areas, which Volvo aims to combat with the speed limiter. The other two are intoxication and distraction, and it has a whole new set of measures to address those.
Starting with the next generation of cars, from the start of the 2020s, Volvo will install cameras inside the car to watch you as you drive. These cameras will watch how you act and respond to situations, to determine if you’re driving under the influence or not paying proper attention.
If the system thinks you’re clearly intoxicated or distracted, it will take control of some of the car’s functions. That might start with limiting the car’s speed, but it could even take the decision to park the car — safely, of course — to save you from yourself. The car would also eventually phone home, calling Volvo On Call assistance.
Trent Victor, professor of driver behavior at Volvo Cars, says:
“There are many accidents that occur as a result of intoxicated drivers. Some people still believe that they can drive after having had a drink, and that this will not affect their capabilities. We want to ensure that people are not put in danger as a result of intoxication.”
Henrik Green, Volvo’s senior vice-president in research and development, adds:
“When it comes to safety, our aim is to avoid accidents altogether rather than limit the impact when an accident is imminent and unavoidable. In this case, cameras will monitor for behavior that may lead to serious injury or death.”
Of course being constantly monitored by a camera system that can make external communications might come with some serious privacy concerns. We received this response from Volvo Cars when we asked about data security:
“With the cameras, Volvo aims to collect data only in the ambition to make its cars safer and only the data that is required for the systems. The cameras will not record video and no data will be gathered without the user’s consent. Exact technical setup is yet to be determined.
“We take the privacy of our customers very seriously. Volvo Cars will not share any private data without the user first giving consent. By announcing the installation of in-car cameras, we want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even the obligation to install technology in cars that changes their drivers’ behavior.”