On Monday (4th March,) Volvo announced plans to limit all cars manufactured from 2020 onwards to a max speed of 112mph. This is part of their plans to bring the number of people who die in a Volvo car to zero over the next coming years.

In a press release by the company they teased the launch of Vision 2020, “one of the most ambitious safety visions in the automotive industry.”

How will this work?

Most other manufacturers are using an Intelligent Speed Assistant (ISA), which earlier this year was revealed as near finalised that it would be mandatory for all new cars on the road from 2021. The European Transport Safety Council proposed the changes which were approved by a key group of MEPs and is hoped to come into force for all cars with the 21 plate and higher.

ISA will limit the speed of the car depending on the area the car is. It uses GPS and traffic sign recognition to limit and adjust the max speed. Drivers are able to override the max speed limit by pushing hard on the throttle, in case of overtaking cars or need to move out of the way sharply.

However, Volvo has gone a step further and will electronically limit the car from going no faster than 112 mph, or 180kph. For the Volvo XC90, the flagship SUV, this will reduce the top speed by 20mph, and many of the other new cars will have their top speeds chopped by 18mph.

Zero deaths by 2020?

Volvo’s Vision 2020 is a definite jump in the car safety world. To suddenly go from quite basic systems not even under ten years ago to there now being plans to stop deaths in Volvo cars completely seems a huge leap. Volvo has often been a leader in the safety industry with its calls for a universal safety standard in autonomous vehicles.

However, nearly 1.25 million people a year die in a motor vehicle. Can this ambitious strategy really come to fruition? Volvo has admitted that on technology alone they cannot bring the number of deaths to zero. In light of this, they want to work to change user behaviour as well as improving their technological capabilities.

“Volvo is a leader in safety: we always have been, and we always will be,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo. “Because of our research, we know where the problem areas are when it comes to ending serious injuries and fatalities in our cars. And while a speed limitation is not a cure-all, it’s worth doing if we can even save one life.”

“We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver´s behaviour, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction,” said Mr Samuelsson. “We don’t have a firm answer to this question, but believe we should take leadership in the discussion and be a pioneer.”

People simply do not recognise the danger involved in speed, says Jan Ivarsson following on from Mr Samuelsson’s statement, one of Volvo Cars’ leading safety experts.

“As humans, we all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much,” said Mr Ivarsson. “People often drive too fast in a given traffic situation and have poor speed adaption in relation to that traffic situation and their own capabilities as a driver. We need to support better behaviour and help people realise and understand that speeding is dangerous.”

Other safety issues

In the research that Volvo did, they found that there were three gaps in their safety procedures. One being speeding, the other two intoxication and distracted driving. Both of these relate highly to user behaviour over the car, but at a special safety event on March 20th, they plan to reveal solutions for combating these two issues.

With these safety issues also comes the question of intrusiveness. As said earlier do carmakers “have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that change their driver’s behaviour?” Is this something that we as people, want to have controlling our lives?

Is Big Brother kicking in or is it ok to have advanced safety features that can change our driving behaviour? The question here must be posed of if we all had perfect driving, these safety features wouldn’t be needed, and we would be able to drive without autonomy taking over.

However, unless a drastic change happens anytime soon, it seems unlikely that people will stop speeding anytime soon. In 2017, 203 people died in a road traffic collision as a direct result of exceeding the speed limit. Every year since 2013, over 200 people have died because of exceeding the speed limit. This anti-speeding advert from New Zealand shows the truly devastating consequences speeding has, we’d recommend watching it, but we will place a warning as it is quite triggering for those who may have been involved in such an incident before.

What do you think about Volvo’s plans? Where does technology stop being able to protect us? Let us know below

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