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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Volvo to Launch Car With Fully Automatic Braking

Collision avoidance systems that automatically apply the brakes to a speeding car have already been launched by several automakers. But while cars will suddenly slow if they detect an accident is about to happen, automakers have been hesitant to bring them to a sudden and full emergency stop.

Volvo is about to change all that. With the launch of the S60 next year, Volvo will introduce a "full auto brake" and "pedestrian safety" function. Cars will come to a full stop at speeds less than about 15 miles an hour if their radar systems detect they are about to strike a car or a person. If the car is going faster, the car will try to come as close to a full stop as possible.

"If the car is traveling faster, the aim is to reduce the impact speed as much as possible. In most cases, we can reduce the collision force by about 75%," says Thomas Broberg, Volvo's safety expert. "Considering the large number of pedestrian fatalities that occur, if we manage to reduce the fatality risk 20 percent, this new function will make a big difference."

The system is also supposed to work in the event of rear-end impacts with other vehicles. Statistics reveal that half of all drivers who hit another vehicle from behind do not brake at all prior to the collision.

Automakers have said for a while now that they have the ability to bring cars to a full halt without driver input. But they have been hesitant to use the capability. Ford safety chief Steve Kozak says in building the new Taurus, it found that its drivers don't want the car to be able to take such dire action on its own. They want to feel in control. But Volvo has set itself the ambitious goal of eliminating deaths or injuries in its cars by 2020.

"Zero is the one and only alternative for us. As the leader in car safety we can't accept that people are killed or injured just because they want to transport themselves from A to B," says Jan Ivarsson, head of safety strategy at Volvo Cars.

While this isn't, strictly speaking, an EV development, we believe as In-Wheel Motors (which Volvo has been a leading proponent) make their way onto electric cars, fully automated braking will become much cheaper for automakers to incorporate into their cars. With Wheel Motors taking over drive and brake functions dynamic stability becomes a software function within the motor control system (imagine a 4 wheeled Segway). This may lead to auto braking becoming a standard feature, or even mandatory as with stability control, on all new cars with the result being a huge reduction in the global road toll.

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