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Volvo's In-Car Cameras Set to Become Standard in 2020


By: Daniel Golson –

Back in 2007, Volvo announced its Vision 2020 plan, the goal of which was to have zero fatalities or serious injuries in Volvo cars. The company has steadily been working to achieve the Vision plan, with new safety features and assistance systems coming out every year, chief among them Volvo's Pilot Assist suite of semi-autonomous features. According to Volvo, the largest safety issue that automakers now face is that of human behavior. Going even further, it splits up behavior into three problem areas: Speeding, intoxication, and distraction. Volvo already has taken a step toward "solving" the speed problem, with the recent announcement that it will be fitting 112-mph top speed limiters to its cars. This week in Gothenburg, Sweden, at what it called the Safety Moment conference, Volvo detailed its plans to tackle the other two behavior areas, with the biggest new innovation being the addition of driver-facing cameras to the interior of its upcoming cars, something that the brand has been working on for a while.

These in-car cameras will be standard on every single Volvo starting in the early 2020s, which is when the next-gen XC90 is set to be released on the upcoming SPA2 platform. (The speed limiters will be introduced in the 2021 model year.) While no specifics on the positioning or final number of cameras has been given, the prototypes we saw had one in each A-pillar, with both augmented by an additional sensor. Malin Ekholm, vice president of Volvo's Safety Center, told C/D that her engineering team works extremely closely with Volvo's designers and said the final setup will be well integrated, extremely functional, and—as is now typical of modern Volvo cars—beautiful.

The camera system will monitor the driver for both intoxication and distraction, with slightly different solutions for each problem. The car will be able to tell if a driver is too drowsy, drunk, or under the influence of drugs, and warn a driver not to operate the vehicle. If the person starts driving anyway, and the car detects dangerous driving like weaving in and out of a lane, the car will take additional measures to take control and stop.

CEO Håkan Samuelsson said that he wants the ability to completely prevent operation of the car if the system detects the driver is intoxicated. However, he admitted that Volvo has not yet found a way to accomplish that goal. Samuelsson thinks that Volvo has an obligation to implement systems like this, saying that "It's not just your life you're risking" when you drive a car." We cannot simplify it and say 'It's none of our business, we're not a nanny, we're not a Big Brother.' Maybe you do need to be that." In the U.S. in 2017, almost 30 percent of all fatal accidents involved an intoxicated driver, according to NHTSA. Volvo hopes that talking about this idea will start a conversation with lawmakers and other automakers, leading to much safer roads overall.

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