Volvo is gearing up to reveal its smallest SUV, the XC40, next month and claims that the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA rival will be the safest and most relaxing car for urban environs in its segment.
The Swedish manufacturer says it has achieved its safety goals by incorporating technology developed for the larger XC90 and XC60 models into the XC40, even though the new, smaller car is built on an all-new technology, known as Compact Modular Architecture (CMA).
Besides Volvo’s City Safety package, the XC40 will use a new development of the system that detects potential accidents with other cars, cyclists and pedestrians and automatically slows the SUV. Insurance statistics from other Volvos fitted with earlier versions of the same system already show that the number of claims have reduced by 28 percent.
Other safety equipment includes Volvo on Call, which automatically alerts the authorities in the event of an accident, Pilot Assist, which can help hold a set distance between cars and keep the XC40 in its lane, City Safety, which intervenes to create a gap if a car cuts across you and Run-off Road Protection and Mitigation, which pre-loads safety equipment including the seatbelt when a likely accident is detected. These are expected as optional extras.
"Modern city life presents complex challenges for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. With the XC40, we aim to reduce the so-called cognitive load on the driver. While our safety and driver-assistance systems actively identify and mitigate potential conflicts, you as a driver can relax more and therefore enjoy city driving," said Malin Ekholm, Vice President Volvo Cars Safety Centre.
This year, 15 lakh people are expected to die on roads globally, with that figure expected to rise to 20 lakh by 2020 - the date Volvo has set for its so-called Vision statement of zero fatalities or anyone being seriously injured in a Volvo car. Ekholm stressed that the latest equipment on the XC40 would be a stepping stone towards achieving that goal.
The XC40’s City Safety package has been optimised to rapidly grab driver attention and keep it on the road if a potential accident is detected. An alert will sound when confrtonted with the situation that combines with the brakes being pumped. The feature is already available on the XC90, S90, V90 and XC60. Tests have shown that response time with the system is 1.4sec - down from 1.7sec with the old sound and Head-Up Display (HUD) warnings, a 30 percent improvement. Within that time frame, it takes 0.5sec for a driver to return their eyes to the road and make a decision on how to react.
“Many accidents are caused by ‘mismatch moments’, when you glance over your shoulder, or look at the instruments just as someone else walks out in the road, and this is where we can make a difference,” said Tent Victor, Volvo’s Senior Technical Leader for Crash Avoidance. “But technology can be just as powerful whatever the reason it is called into play - whether someone is on their phone, or their concentration has wondered, if we can get their attention back on the road quickly then we can make a big difference.”
The improvement in reaction time is one reason why Volvo will not offer the XC40 with a HUD system, which is an option on the XC60 and XC90 and has been previously lauded by its maker for helping drivers keep their eyes on the road. However, Ekholm says that the system is not as appropriate for the XC40 as the larger cars because of the way it is built.
Additionally, Volvo has highlighted the options of a 12-inch digital driver’s display, 9-inch central display as found on the XC60 and XC90, smartphone integration including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 360 degree parking camera and connected apps that can help to take the stress out of city driving.
The Swedish manufacturer has developed its safety systems after analysing accident data from around the world, including China, USA, Germany and the UK, as well as its base in Sweden. Officials say this long-standing commitment to research has underpinned its reputation for building safe cars, and gives it an advantage over rivals because developments are based on real-world evidence rather than assumptions and simulations.