Safety and Volvo: celebrating a innovative partnership

Sam Bisby

By: Sam Bisby

Safety and Volvo have become a synonymous pairing over the last seven decades and is a relationship that has saved lives, prevented accidents and allowed the automotive industry as a whole to become safer.

Volvos through the ages have brought many incredible innovative features that range from elements we take for granted every day to those that will one day attempt to create accident-free roads whilst at the wheel of one of its cars.

Because of that, we’d like to celebrate Volvo’s striving attitude to bring the best safety equipment to our cars, and not just Volvos, as well as its attention to detail to ensure its drivers’ wellbeing.

An abundance of innovation

Since the 1940s, Volvo has brought us a varied but highly important array of safety equipment to its cars, with the manufacturer bringing in laminated glass as standard - 15 years before it was mandatory in the US - being the first major signal of influence in safety.

Having a laminated glass windshield that held together when shattered was a massive advancement at the time, but perhaps Volvo’s most seminal moment came in 1958 when engineer Nils Bohlin invented and patented the world’s first three-point safety belt. This became standard on all Volvo cars in ’59, but most importantly the firm made the innovation an open patent for other manufacturers to use for free and is now an element we take as the norm when entering a car.

Volvo safety - three-point-seat belt

Another world-first for Volvo came in 1964 when it developed the rear-facing child seat before creating its own version of the child booster seat in ’78. The latter, like the three-point seat belt, became something available across the industry.

Volvo was also one of the key manufacturers in recognising what happens during an accident and what needed to be done to prevent injuries in the event of such an incident. In 1991, Volvo developed and launched the Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) that saw the driver and passenger seats mounted on traverse steel rails that allowed a reinforced centre console to be crushed during a side impact. This helped distribute the energy of such a crash across the whole side of the car, as opposed to just the b-pillar.

Volvo safety - SIPS

The system saw further advances in ’94 when Volvo were the first to add side airbags before the SIPS gained the first true curtain style airbags in ’99; another feature to make it onto models the world over, especially in modern SUVs.

Other developments saw the emergence of the Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) in ’98 and the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) in 2004. The latter enabled the seatback to move with the occupant and the head restraint to remain rigid and support the neck in the event of a crash; meanwhile, BLIS allows drivers to be aware of other cars to the side and rear.

The study of safety

For 45 years, Volvo has been observing and studying the results of what happens in a crash and developing what can be done about it. In 1970 Volvo started its Traffic Accident Research and has since analysed over 40,000 accidents to develop solutions to whatever injuries had been sustained or preventing the accident in the first place.

WHIPS was one such innovation that came out of the research and has since proven to reduce long-term whiplash injuries by more than 50 per cent.

Volvo Safety Centre Gothenburg

In 2000, Volvo’s Safety Centre opened as the firm’s unique crash-test laboratory that enables the manufacturer to recreate a comprehensive selection of accident types that occur on the road. From this, Volvo has learned a mountain of information that has helped save numerous lives over the last 15 years.

One such area Volvo has focused on is how a pregnant passenger’s body and her unborn child react in a crash. At the centre in Gothenburg Volvo has created ‘Linda’, the virtual pregnant crash test dummy that has allowed Volvo to make huge strides in ensuring safety for those carrying such precious cargo.

The future of safety

Volvo’s ultimate aim is to have no road deaths in any of its cars by the year 2020, and is well on its way achieving that goal.

Entitled 2020 Vision, Volvo is pushing ahead with six technologies that include pedestrian detection in darkness, animal detection, road edge and barrier detection, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, self parking and adaptive cruise control with steer assist.

This year’s new XC90 will carry many new developments from 2020 Vision, as well as gain autonomous innovations that have been outlined in our previous blog on the driverless plans. See more about Volvo’s plans for safety in the video below.