Volvo Car Corporation still leads airbag development after 25 life-saving years
The first Volvo car equipped with an airbag left the assembly line in 1987 - and since then the company has extended the technology with several world-firsts. Volvo was first with both the seat-mounted side airbag and the Inflatable Curtain (IC) - and in 2012 the technology's 25th anniversary was celebrated with the introduction of the groundbreaking pedestrian airbag in the all-new Volvo V40.
"It is the first time airbag technology has been used to help protect vulnerable road users, in this case pedestrians, outside the car," says Lennart Johansson, Senior Manager for Interior safety at Volvo Car Corporation.
Lennart Johansson, who was part of the pioneering work in the 1980s, adds: "The benefit of modern airbag technology is that it takes very little space and still helps provide a good level of protection that can be optimized for the occupant and the crash situation. However, when we see a need for enhanced protection we always search for a total safety solution. The airbag is one solution and it can be combined with other measures."
Another recent example is the new knee airbag in the all-new Volvo V40. It is designed to distribute the load on the driver's lower body in a frontal collision.
The airbag has been a standard feature in all cars for several years, but in the early days both the technology and its reliability created intense debate. At that time, many of these anxieties were justified.
"Getting an airbag to deploy is not a challenge, but making it deploy at exactly the right moment is," explains Lennart Johansson, adding: "In recent years, the timing and the performance level of inflation have been in focus. And in modern airbag technology, the inflation level can be adapted to match crash severity."
The use of sophisticated radar and cameras in recent cars paves the way for the possibility of activating protective safety systems even before the impact if necessary.
Started in the 1950s
A look in the rear-view mirror shows that the first airbag solutions emerged back in the early 1950s. However, the technology was far from mature. One 1955 patent describes a system similar to today's, but with the significant exception that the driver himself had to deploy the bag by pressing a button. Another early debate focused on the use of a pyrotechnic charge to inflate the airbag with gas.
A controversial bill in the United States in 1984 speeded up the airbag development process. Focusing on the dangers of not using the safety belt, the bill stipulated that within three years new cars must be equipped with protective safety devices that did not have to be activated by the occupants.
Co-operation with the safety belt
The airbag was quickly recognised by many observers as the best solution and some even believed that it even would replace the three-point safety belt that was invented by Volvo Car Corporation back in 1959.
However, Volvo successfully argued that the best safety result would be achieved by co-operation between the safety belt system and airbag technology.
"More airbags will not necessarily improve the overall safety level. It is important to regard the airbag as part of a systematic approach where the car's structure, the safety belts, the airbags and other details such as the steering column interact to ensure optimum absorption of the collision forces in an accident," comments Lennart Johansson.
World-firsts in side impact protection
In the late 1990s, the airbag became standard equipment in the Volvo 850.
In 1994, Volvo Car Corporation took the technology further by introducing a side airbag that is integrated in the seat backrest, ready to help protect the chest in a side impact.
"We took a huge step forward by making the side airbag part of our patented Side Impact Protection System that is integrated in the body structure," says Lennart Johansson.
By then, it was already time for the next world-first from Volvo Car Corporation - the Inflatable Curtain (IC).
Extended Inflatable Curtain
The IC is designed to enhance head protection for both front and outer rear seat occupants in a side impact. In some car models, it is also helps protect the occupants in a rollover situation.
The roof-mounted version was introduced when the new Volvo S80 was launched in 1998 and is a standard feature in all Volvo models except the C70.
Instead, the convertible Volvo C70 is equipped with door-mounted inflatable curtains that are deployed upwards in a side collision and remain inflated to help provide protection if the car rolls over.
Volvo has taken this technology another step further by extending the curtain to also provide enhanced protection in offset collisions and for children in the rear seat.
Still vital, still refined
Airbag technology has changed a great deal since it was introduced 25 years ago - and Volvo has been one of the key players in the refinement process.
"Airbag performance has been improved significantly. Today's technology is much more adapted to the collision sequence and the way occupants are moved by the crash forces. After 25 years, refining the airbag technology is a vital part of our aim to build the safest cars in the world," explains Lennart Johansson.
Double win for the Volvo V40 at the Scottish Car of the Year Awards 2012
- V40 wins Executive Hatchback Award
- World's first pedestrian airbag wins Safety Award
Volvo's all-new V40 has been named 'Best Executive Hatchback' at the 2012 Scottish Car of the Year Awards, judged and hosted by the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers, held at the Thistle Glasgow hotel on Friday 12th October.
The Volvo V40, launched earlier this year, has been an instant hit with journalists and the buying public, selling fast across the UK. With its fresh Scandinavian design, innovative safety features and exciting driving dynamics, the V40 showcases Volvo's new Designed Around You philosophy, putting the driver at the centre of the ride experience through handling, style, comfort and advanced technology. The V40 is available from £19,995 on the road and with class-leading CO2 emissions of 94g/km.
"Cutting a dash in the executive sector is no easy task, especially when you want a car that has bags of practicality too. This year proved sensible does go hand in hand with sensational, with the variety the SCOTY judging panel had to choose from. In the end, one car stood out for so many reasons, not least its looks, drive and safety," said John Murdoch, President of the ASMW.
The V40's standard-fit, world's first pedestrian airbag, combined with Volvo's established City Safety and Pedestrian detection technology earned it recognition as joint winner of this year's Safety Award. Designed to help cushion the impact of a pedestrian hitting the vehicle by lifting the bonnet to create an extra deformation zone, fully inflating the airbag and covering the lower parts of the a-pillar and bottom third of the windscreen, all within a few milliseconds of the impact. The pedestrian airbag has also contributed towards the V40 receiving the highest ever recorded score by Euro NCAP.
Revealed earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show, the V40 is soon to be joined on the road by the R-Design and Cross Country derivatives which were launched last month at the Paris Motor Show. These two new models will satisfy those drivers who want a more sports-inspired or rugged look to their V40.
Nikki Rooke, Volvo Car UK's Head of Public Affairs, Events and Sponsorship, said "The all-new V40 has been a great success for Volvo this year and I'm delighted that the ASMW have been as equally pleased as we are with the car. The V40 is an important car, especially to our Scottish dealers, and I'm sure with its class-leading emissions, dynamics and design, we will continue to have success".
Volvo Celebrates International Vehicle Security Award Win
- Volvo wins ‘Thatcham International Vehicle Security Award' for second year running
- Anders Edvardsson from the Swedish insurance association (TFF) presented the award to Volvo Car Corporation's Mikael Wall
Volvo has won the coveted International Vehicle Security Award at the 2012 Thatcham Security Awards. Beating off intense competition from rival manufacturers, this is the second straight year that Volvo has been honoured with the award.
Thatcham completes a 1,000 point New Vehicle Security Assessment (NVSA) on all new vehicles coming into the UK and Sweden for each country's respective insurance association.
Volvo's success came from excelling in the areas of mechanical security, electronic security and how identifiable a vehicle is when broken into its component parts. On this basis, the Thatcham International Vehicle Security Award goes to the most secure manufacturer in more than one country that Thatcham supports.
Attending to accept the award was Mikael Wall, security analysis engineer at Volvo Car Corporation who said: "We're delighted to accept this award for the second year running against some very tough competition. Volvo is committed to developing ways to reduce a driver's insurance premium and in conjunction with systems like the City Safety Autonomous Emergency Braking on all new V40s, this award shows our progress in achieving that goal."
All of Volvo's models are equipped with a number of standard security features, such as remote central locking with deadlocks, an anti-theft alarm including immobiliser, a level sensor and the option of fitting laminated side windows for extra security.
To further increase customers' confidence in their vehicle's security, customers with Volvo On Call technology can, via their mobile phone, immediately check the status of the door locks, open the car doors if the keys have been locked inside or lost and have the system send an automatic alert if the alarm is triggered.