Apart from speeding, which the company aims to help combat with a top speed limit, intoxication and distraction are two other primary areas of concern for traffic safety. Together, these three areas constitute the main ‘gaps’ towards Volvo Cars’ vision of a future with zero traffic fatalities, and require a focus on human behaviour in the company’s safety work as well.
For example, figures by NHTSA show that in the United States, almost 30% of all traffic fatalities in vehicles in 2017 involved intoxicated drivers.
Volvo believes intoxication and distraction should be addressed by installing in-car cameras and other sensors that monitor the driver and allow the car to intervene if a clearly intoxicated or distracted driver does not respond to warning signals and is risking an accident.
That intervention could involve limiting the car’s speed, alerting the Volvo On Call assistance service and, as a final course of action, actively slowing down and safely parking the car.
“When it comes to safety, our aim is to avoid accidents altogether rather than limit the impact when an accident is imminent and unavoidable,” said Henrik Green, Senior Vice President, Research & Development at Volvo Cars. “In this case, cameras will monitor for behaviour that may lead to serious injury or death.”
Examples of such behaviour include a complete lack of steering input for extended periods of time, drivers who are detected to have their eyes closed or off the road for extended periods of time, as well as extreme weaving across lanes or excessively slow reaction times.
A driver-monitoring system as described above is an important element of allowing the car to actively make decisions in order to help avoid accidents that could result in severe injuries or death.
“There are many accidents that occur as a result of intoxicated drivers,” said Trent Victor, Professor of Driver Behaviour at Volvo Cars. “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.”
Introduction of the cameras on all Volvo models will start on the next generation of Volvo’s scalable SPA2 vehicle platform in the early 2020s. Details on the exact amount of cameras and their positioning in the interior will follow at a later stage.
The company wants 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’ behaviour. Both the speed limit and the installation of in-car cameras illustrate how car makers can take active responsibility for the aim of achieving zero traffic fatalities by supporting better driver behaviour.
The company also revealed its Care Key, which allows Volvo drivers to impose limitations on the car’s top speed on all cars from model year 2021, before lending their car to others.
Hyundai's take on driver monitoring for safety can be found here.