The New Volvo Safety Concept Car
Volvo Safety Concept Car makes driving that much safer

After launching three new car models in 2000, Volvo Cars is now taking a major step further into the future. The main theme of the Volvo Safety Concept Car (SCC) is "superior vision". However, the car also employs a variety of technologies that enhance personal security and improve passive safety systems. The SCC thus points the way to a new dimension in research and development into car safety.

"With the quick pace of technological development, we are constantly gaining access to smaller yet more powerful computers, new sensors and so on. Volvo's approach is to utilise the breakthroughs in an intelligent and sensible way. We combine advanced electronics with new materials and new mechanical design solutions to create customer benefits." says Hans Gustavsson, head of purchasing and product development at Volvo Cars.

The Volvo SCC is the result of close cooperation between Volvo Cars (appointed as the Ford's Center of Excellence for Safety) and the parent company, the Ford Motor Company. The car, which was designed at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in California, displays advances in several research and development projects in the fields of safety and security. It clearly highlights the spearhead competence and the resources that the company has at its command.
Vision for the Future

The Volvo SCC is built for the eye — not in terms of aesthetics alone, but because the car has been designed around the driver's eye to ensure better vision and visability.

The Volvo SCC also automatically sets the right driving position, regardless of the driver's build, based on the position of the eyes. When the driver gets in the car, IR sensors and cameras sense the position of the driver's eyes and put the driver's seat in the position that offers optimal visibility. The steering wheel, floor, pedals and centre console are then adjusted to provide the best possible ergonomics and comfort. The driver thus enjoys the best overview of what is happening both outside the car and on the instrument panel.

The Volvo SCC also offers a better field of vision owing to the redesigned A- and B-posts. The driver can see through the windscreen's supporting pillars — the A-posts — owing to the use of a steel box construction combined with see-through Plexiglass.

The B-posts — the pillars between the front and rear doors — curve inward at the top to give the driver an unobstructed field of vision to the offset rear. In terms of passive safety, these B-posts are at least as safe as conventional B-posts in a roll-over or side-impact scenario since they are integrated with the front seat frames.

This illustration shows the difference between the side/rear view in the Safety Concept Car and in a car with a regular B-pillar. The dark area, which covers the front of the red car, is a "blind spot" created by the B-pillar.
The Safety Concept car has a new and advanced headlight system which can automatically adjust the beam to the driving. The traditional bulbs have been replaced with fibre optics untis. Light is generated in a light motor elsewhere in the car and is conducted to the headlights via fibre-optic cables. This makes it possible to adjust the light and the beam at lightning speed to suit various conditions. These new headlights have been produced in close cooperation with lighting experts Hella.

When driving in town or at an intersection, the beam can be made shorter and wider to illuminate a larger area close to the car. When driving straight ahead on the highway or motorway, the beam can be extended. When the car is entering a corner, the light can be directed through the corner to illuminate the whole of the road during this manoeuvre. If the driver steers the car into a curve, the beam can be directed along the track of the curve to light up the entire road as the car changes direction.

In the exterior rearview mirrors and rear bumper, there are sensors that warn the driver about traffic that is approaching in a "blind spot". The driver is warned by visual yellow signals in the exterior rearview mirror if a car is in or close to a "blind spot".

If the driver is planning to make a lane change and there is a car just outside him or approaching quickly from behind, the red warning light in the exterior rearview mirror and an acoustic signal are activated when he switches on the indicator. Simultaneously, the picture from the side-view camera is shown in display one, in front of the driver.

The automatic cruise control has a radar which measures the distance to traffic ahead. If the distance to the car in front becomes too short or decreases rapidly, a red warning signal is displayed on the windscreen in front of the driver.
Forward-facing cameras check the relationship of the car to the central and side lane markings 20 metres ahead of the car. If the car displays a tendency to cross any of these lines without the driver indicating, the driver is given an acoustic warning of the same type that is heard when cars drive on heavy road markings.

The SCC has a light amplifier based on infrared light. When driving in the dark, a black-and-white image is projected onto a glass display on the top of the dashboard. It shows what is concealed in the area and is not illuminated by the headlights. It is for example possible to detect something that is concealed between a dazzling oncoming vehicle and your own car, such as a pedestrian without reflectors.

Passenger Protection

Providing all passengers with the best possible protection in an accident is one of the cornerstones of the Volvo Cars safety philosophy.

In this context, the SCC has several new features that may find their way into forthcoming models. This includes two prototypes of 4-point safety belts, building on the tradition that Volvo started when they created the original 3-point seat belt design. The 3-point belt is considered to be one of the single most important safety-enhancing features in a car.

The X4 CrissCross harness is a conventional 3-point safety belt that is supplemented with a retractable diagonal chest belt that goes from the shoulder to the hip. The regular 3-point safety belt is put on first, followed by the additional chest belt. Since the system forms a cross-brace across the chest, the shoulders are located securely so that the occupant is kept more firmly in place if the car rolls over or is hit from the side. The cross-brace across the seat occupant's chest also helps distribute incoming crash forces across chest-cage more evenly.

The Centre Buckle V4 belt is similar to the harness used in competition cars and for child seats. The belt retracts into the seat's frame when not in use. The upper attachment points are located near the seat occupant's shoulders and the lower anchorages are on the left and right of the hips. The belt, which is V-shaped, is worn over the shoulders like backpack straps once the occupant is in the seat, and is fastened securely with a buckle across the pelvis and hips. The belt secures the shoulders to effectively hold the body in position in a rollover accident.

Today's generation of rear seats is designed for adults and modified to suit children. In the SCC, Volvo approaches the matter from the opposite direction and presents a rear seat that is designed first and foremost for children, while functioning perfectly well for adults too.

The rear seat has two cushions which can be raised and lowered electrically. The height of the cushions is adjusted steplessly to match the child's height exactly in relation to belt geometry, comfort and visibility from the car. To ensure that even slightly smaller children have a comfortable position for their legs, the front of the cushion can be folded down with a quick turn of the wrist.

Communicating With Your Car

The Volvo Personal Communicator and the car communicate automatically — with or without the driver being involved — and the car can be individualized using personal settings.

The remote control unit, which has been developed into a Volvo Personal Communicator (VPC), is the basis for the personal security system and is an example of the way in which Bluetooth technology can be harnessed in future-generation cars. The VPC was developed in cooperation between Volvo Cars and Swedish companies Fingerprint, Combitech, and Humpf Design.

The system makes it possible to unlock and start the car without the need to activate the remote control unit. All the driver has to do to unlock the door is to grasp the door handle. The car sends a signal to the VPC which the driver is carrying, and the VPC transmits the unit's identity code. If this is correct, the door is unlocked, which initiates further communication between the VPC and the car, so that the car can automatically adjust settings to the driver's predetermined preferences.

The VPC is personalised via a built-in fingerprint sensor. After that it can be programmed with a variety of personal settings, including which doors should be unlocked, settings for the driver's seat, steering wheel and mirrors, and even preset destinations for the navigation system.

A heartbeat sensor registers both human and animal heartbeats when the car is parked. The sensor is activated if anyone breaks in and hides inside the car, or if a child or pet is left inside by mistake. If the driver is more than a 100 metres from the car, the VPC can still communicate — via a cellphone, PDA, or even a computer.