Back in 2007, Volvo announced its lofty goal of not having anyone killed or seriously injured in its cars. The Sweden-based company saw the writing on the wall, so to speak, and realised at the time that sensors and other technologies could be included in cars to greatly reduce the chance of getting into an accident. So as technology advanced, the company began to roll out new safety features into its cars each year.
Now, almost a decade later, Volvo is well on its way of achieving its goal of making the most secure vehicle. “We are marching to it. We are approaching that era where really people will not be killed,” said Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo North America.
Volvo tracks how many people in Sweden die in its cars each year. And according to its data, only one person died in the previous generation of its XC90. According to the Institute for Highway Safety latest safety data, no one in the US died in an XC90 between 2009 to 2012. But for its cars to be truly deathproof, Kerssemakers said Volvo will have to conquer fully autonomous cars.
“We started to talk about autonomous drive about four or five years ago. It was based on our vision of not getting killed in the car. It was not a popular thing at the time,” he said.
“And gradually, we realised that if we don't do something like autonomous drive, where we are using all of the technical features we have already, we won’t get to our 2020 vision. We need autonomous drive,” Kerssemakers said.
So for the last few years Volvo has been investing heavily in developing the technology to roll out semi-autonomous features in its vehicles. For example, the latest Volvo S90 includes Pilot Assist, which is a feature that enables the car to drive itself up to 80 miles per hour. The company is planning to add a more advanced semi-autonomous system to its next car.
The company has already developed fully autonomous vehicles being currently tested by engineers on Volvo premises. And beginning in 2017, the company plans to launch a program called DriveMe in Gothenburg, Sweden where 100 customers will be able to lease an autonomous Volvo XC90 and drive it in autonomous mode on specified Swedish roads. According to Volvo, this will be the first large-scale, long-term test of autonomous cars.
“We have a journey to 2020 and we are going to implement the technology in different steps,” he said. “I won’t say that it is easy, but because we are able to take existing technology, we can take the next steps relatively easy.”