A Million More: one million more. A million lives, yet to be saved. This is Volvo’s goal today, after reaching the one million lives already saved. Save how? With seat belts, an invention by the Swedish manufacturer dated 1959 and launched without a patent – that is to say: given as a gift – so that it became a (technological and social) heritage shared anywhere in the world.

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The first safety belt: Volvo launched it in 1959
The first safety belt: Volvo launched it in 1959

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The new goal – a million more – it will be pursued with driving monitoring systems that reduce the risks deriving from the human factor, in short, from driver errors. For Istat in 2019 there were 3,173 road victims in Italy, about 9 per day: an impressive figure even if down (-4.8%) compared to 2018; the wounded were 241,384 (-0.6%). The analysis of the figures is painful, but it must be done: the deaths in cars were 1,411 by car (44.5% of the total), so there were 698, pedestrians died were 534 and cyclists 253; 137 were the victims on trucks, 88 those on mopeds and 52 those on other vehicles. Accidents occurred in 73.8% of cases in the city, 21.8% outside the city and 5.3% on the motorway.

The causes? In the first place there is distraction (15.1% of cases), followed by lack of precedence (13.8) and high speed (9.3). The mortality rate is high throughout Europe, but the Italian situation is worse than the European average: 52.6% against 48.1 (EU28). In addition to the emotional side, there is also the social cost, equal to 16.8 billion euros, 1% of the Italian GDP. Between 2010 and 2019 there was a progressive reduction in accidents (-19.2% overall), with a decrease in deaths (-22.8) and injuries (20.8), but this trend – mainly an effect of technological advances made by cars – must not let our guard down. Research, development and application must continue to further lower the risk threshold.

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For Volvo, progress must take place in three areas: driving education, road maintenance and car technology. Italy to weigh negatively – in terms of safety and emissions, which are two sides of the same coin, health – the age of cars: out of 40 million vehicles in circulation, 40% are pre-Euro 4, therefore with a high CO2 emissions, but also with obsolete safety features. If in a normal market (which certainly not this year’s …) about 2 million new cars are sold, it would take at least 20 years to adapt the fleet. Too many – according to Volvo – if no action is taken to correct and accelerate the transition.

Here then are the projects. The Italian Traffic Police launched Icarus, a project to which 15 European countries have subsequently joined which aims to promote safety on the roads. With a thousand questionnaires distributed in every country to young drivers of cars and motorcycles, the attitude of young people towards road safety, personal characteristics, habits and skills is being assessed. All to define the profiles at risk. It is leading us to create a training program for young people between 17 and 21 years old that is based on common and national risk factors. The numbers suggest to focus on young people: road accidents are the leading cause of death between 15 and 24 years.

The search for security has always been a strategic sector for Volvo. So today the company can count on an immense and unique database. Having collected accident data for 40 years, we have been able to identify which injuries occur in different accidents for men, women and children, explains Lotta Jakobsson, doctor and Senior Technical Specialist at the Volvo Safety Center. It is a way of proceeding that has precedents. A few years ago the Swedes were working on the EVA Project, acronym for Equal Vehicle for All, equal cars for all. The data made it possible to understand the inequality in the development of safety systems: women were more exposed to injuries in the event of an accident. The observation triggered the manufacturer’s reaction, which aimed at adapting the security measures to the specific – we would say today – gender.

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In the name of safety, Volvo has now taken a step that is debatable, difficult and courageous: the new Volvos born from 2020 do not exceed 180 hours. Which remains a very high limit and well above the risk threshold, but a stance against the alibi of speed passed off as a factor of technological progress. To the limitation, Volvo adds a series of devices that monitor driving behavior. The Swedes are also studying the automatic stopping of the car out of control and the limitation of the use of the telephone. In short: if the human factor fails (distraction, unscrupulousness, incapacity), technology intervenes to bring the situation back below the risk threshold.

If we look at the last century, there are steps in the evolution of the car that can now make you smile, but in their time they were very important. In 1911 the rearview mirror was invented (on the FordModel-T), followed by wipers (1919), disc brakes (1919), padded dashboard (1960), adjustable headrest (1968), ABS ( 1978), the airbags (1981), the seat belts (1959), the third stop light (1996) … In 1994 the crash tests began, then certified by the Euro NCAP in 1996: a concrete behavior assessment system of vehicles in the event of a collision, with the detailed measurement of the damage suffered by the occupants.

The Volvo child seat
The Volvo child seat

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Of this history, Volvo for about sixty years among the undisputed protagonists. Let’s briefly retrace the steps. From 1959, with the invention of the three-point seat belts and the standard assembly on the standard front seats. 1972: the seat for children under the age of four facing backwards. 1978: again for children, but over four years old, here is the raised safety cushion. 1986: The three-point seat belt is also applied to the rear center seat. 1991: comes the side impact protection system (SIPS). 1994: the side impact airbag (the first to be fitted was the Volvo 850). 1998: here is the Whiplash Injury Protection System (WHIPS), an advanced system that combines seat and headrest in synergy to better protect against injuries caused by whiplash. 1998: the Inflatable Curtain (IC) arrives, the development of the side impact protection system with inflatable curtains mounted on the ceiling to improve head protection. 2002: the Rollover Stability Control (RSC) is born, a gyroscopic sensor that detects the danger of overturning and triggers the stability control to counteract the effect (introduced on the XC90 SUV).

The Volvo safety seat
The Volvo safety seat

2003 was the year of new patented front structure that creates a safety cage with different deformation zones to absorb the kinetic energy of the impact. Always in 2003 arrives the Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS), a preventive driving assistance system that, for example, delays incoming phone calls when you are in complex traffic situations that require the driver’s full attention (debuts on the S80 sedan) . 2004: the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) a preventive assistance system, integrated in the side mirror: it warns the driver with a light of the presence of vehicles in the blind spot). 2005Here is the Door Mounted Inflatable Curtain (DMIC), a door mounted inflatable tent developed for the C70 convertible. 2008: City Safety, automatic low-speed braking, is fitted as standard to all Volvos.

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In 2012Pedestrian Airbag Technology arrives, an airbag located under the hood – covers a third of the windscreen and the lower part of the A-pillars – which is triggered in the event of a collision with a pedestrian. 2013: the Cyclist detection auto brake detects both cyclists and pedestrians in dark conditions and automatically activates the brakes when needed. 2014: Auto brake in intersections automatic braking that is triggered when the driver turns at an intersection without realizing that a vehicle is approaching in the opposite direction (world premiere on the XC90). 2015: Large animal detection an extension of City Safety that detects large animals both day and night. 2018: Oncoming Mitigation by Braking (OMB) brakes and assists automatic steering to avoid collisions with vehicles in another lane (debuts on the XC60). And we come to the 2020, with the Speed ​​cap, the speed limit on all new Volvo cars is 180 km / h starting this year.

23 October 2020 (change October 23, 2020 | 11:25)

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