Volvo Aiming to Design Safer Cars with New Product Architecture
Volvo is claiming the design of its new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) will enable the company to achieve the aim that, by the year 2020, no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo.
Recent data from STRADA (Swedish Traffic Accident Data Acquisition) show that modern Volvos have close to 60 per cent lower injury rates compared to the average modern vehicle in Sweden, which in turn has one of the lowest injury rates in the world.
“We retain our uncompromising attitude to offering superior crash protection,” says Jan Ivarsson, Senior Manager, Safety Strategy and Requirements at Volvo Cars. He adds: “The new architecture opens up for further improvements. Seven per cent of the safety cage in the original XC90 was made of hot-formed boron steel. The structure in the upcoming all-new XC90 features over 40 per cent hot-formed steel, which translates into significantly improved strength but without adding mass or weight.”
The new architecture also includes a completely new electrical sub-architecture that aids the car’s “intelligence level”, says Volvo. In principle, the electrical architecture consists of a network with four domain masters – vehicle dynamics, safety, car body and infotainment.
“Each master can be connected to every single unit in the whole architecture. This means that we have one single nerve system with full control over all the connections in the vehicle. This is unique in the industry,” says Peter Mertens.
As well as conventional safety technologies – such as safety belts, pre-tensioners, whiplash protection system, airbags and inflatable curtains – cars built on the new SPA architecture will be equipped with extended camera, radar and sensor technologies, which have all been designed to detect more objects around the car and to offer support at higher speeds and in more situations, such as at crossings.
“One of the most important focus areas within collision-avoidance is to help prevent unintentional road departures by autonomous steering intervention in critical situations. Unintentional road departure is the collision type that results in most deaths and serious injuries in modern traffic,” says Jan Ivarsson.
The Scalable Product Architecture is also designed to accommodate the future implementation of autonomous technologies all the way to self-driving cars.
To exchange communication with other vehicles, the infrastructure extends the driver’s theoretical field of vision beyond the capacity of the camera, radar and sensors. With this Car2Car and Car2Infrastructure technology in place, information can be shared and exchanged.
According to Volvo engineers, this technology opens up a number of new safety and support possibilities, such as obtaining road friction information, advance warnings and detour options to avoid queues, creating a green light wave and finding free parking spots.
The modern desire to be constantly connected is moving into the car. This connectivity can be used to make driving safer and more comfortable – but bringing it into the driver’s seat is also a challenge from a safety perspective, as the desire to stay online may divert the driver’s focus from the road. This is a field where Volvo believes that autonomous drive will play a critical role.
“Allowing the car to act automatically is crucial when moving towards the vision that future cars will not crash at all. The technologies enabled by our new Scalable Product Architecture will bring us significantly closer to this ultimate goal,” explains Jan Ivarsson.