Volvo is using sensor technology in innovative ways to create a new generation of safe electric vehicles
With its long-held reputation for setting the standard for automotive safety, Volvo has been developing the technology for keeping its vehicle occupants safe to suit its new range of electric vehicles.
For the forthcoming Volvo EX90 electric flagship SUV to be revealed in November this year, the Swedish car giant is taking its safety standards a step further with the EX90 set to be safer than any Volvo that has come before it.
According to Volvo, it will continue to innovate until cars don’t crash anymore, until it’s 100 per cent carbon free as a company and the EX90 is being lauded as being the start of a new era for Volvo Cars, taking its legacy of safety, quality and innovation into the future.
The company’s aim is to help drivers to be less likely to be distracted and to reduce the risk of a crash happening. The EX90 comes with an invisible shield of safety that includes the latest sensing technology, allowing the car to understand the driver’s state of mind and the world around them.
State-of-the art sensors like cameras, radars and LiDAR, all powered by Volvo’s core computing platform and software, work together to create a 360-degree real-time view of the world.
The sensors are designed to respond and react when required, LiDAR senses the road ahead, whether it’s day or night at normal road speeds. It can see small objects hundreds of metres ahead, creating more time to inform, act and avoid.
And as the EX90 hit the roads and Volvo learns from the data they generate, previous research indicates that the software and sensors can help reduce accidents that result in serious injury or death by up to 20 per cent.
Inside the vehicle, an invisible shield of safety also provides protection. Special sensors and cameras, powered by Volvo’s own-developed algorithms, gauge eye gaze concentration. The technology allows the EX90 to see when the driver is distracted, tired or otherwise inattentive. The software will provide alerts and can even safely stop the vehicle if the alerts aren’t responded to.
One of Volvo’s core philosophies is that the least dangerous crash is the one that never happens. By researching, learning and developing, the company has constantly improved the crash prevention systems in its cars, delivering some of the most advanced and effective systems to date.
With the Volvo EX90, one of the most advanced sensor sets on the market will be offered. A Volvo-unique set of eight cameras, five radars, 16 ultrasonic sensors and a cutting-edge LiDAR sensor will provide the exterior “eyes” of the car.
LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges with high precision and fidelity.
The difference LiDAR can make for real-life safety is remarkable: recent research indicates that adding LiDAR to an already safe car can reduce accidents and improve overall crash avoidance by up to 9 per cent.
Embedded in the roofline of the EX90 and becoming standardised over time, the superior LiDAR technology can detect pedestrians at up to 250-metre distance and something as small and dark as a tyre on a black road 120 metres ahead. All this while travelling at highway speeds. And because it’s not reliant on light like a camera, it’s working in daylight and at night.
By combining advanced sensors, in-house developed software and the car’s core computing power, an element of redundancy has been introduced for added safety. The car will not only be able to step in and assist the driver, it will also have a better understanding of when it’s needed and how to assist in the best way.
“We believe the EX90 to be the safest Volvo car to ever hit the road,” said Joachim de Verdier, head of Safe Vehicle Automation at Volvo Cars. “We are fusing our understanding of the outside environment with our more detailed understanding of driver attention. When all our safety systems, sensors, software and computing power come together, they create a preventative shield of safety around the driver.”
Our cars’ understanding of the outside world, together with their capability of better understanding the driver’s attention, also form critical parts of our forthcoming autonomous driving technology.
A new interior radar feature developed by Volvo engineers is designed to be accurate and sensitive enough to detect the tiniest movements at sub-millimetre scale – such as those of a sleeping toddler. It’s the first such feature to cover the entire interior of the car, including the boot.
According to Gunnar Ohlsson, responsible for interior systems at Volvo, the new radar system is designed to help address a cause of terrible tragedy that has proven all too real for too many families. US government statistics show that since 1998, more than 900 children have died after being left in hot cars. The majority of hot car deaths occur because someone forgot that their child was in the car at the time.
The new interior radar system will first be rolled out as standard, where regulation allows, on the Volvo EX90 and will also be included in other forthcoming Volvo car models.
With other sensors integrated in the overhead console, the roof-mounted reading lamps and the boot of the car, the new system is the first that can detect sub-millimetre movement in the entire interior of the car.
To cover as much of the cabin as possible and sense whether a child or pet has been left in the car, the radars have been spaced throughout the cabin from front to back, including the rear boot area.
To notify the driver when needed, and to help avoid ‘reminder fatigue’, experts at Volvo have determined that the best time to signal the potential presence of family members left inside the car is when an attempt is made to lock.
The lock activates the interior radar system and it determines whether the car is empty of any people or pets, before it allows the car to be locked. If a family member or pet is detected inside, the car will remain unlocked and the car will display a reminder to check the cabin for occupants on the centre console screen.
The car’s climate system can remain on if people or animals are detected in the cabin, to improve comfort. This can also help lower the risk of hypothermia or heatstroke.
“We’ve always been a leader in safety, and we want to continue protecting lives by setting new standards in automotive safety,” says Lotta Jakobsson. “That also means making you feel safe and giving you peace of mind. That type of emotional safety will help you enjoy life to the fullest, while at the same time helping you to prevent tragedies from happening.”