Volvo Car Corporation tackles changes in driving behavior with new safety systems
By developing several new high-tech safety solutions, Volvo Car Corporation is taking a major step toward its 2020 goal that nobody should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.
A lot of intensive development work is under way by Volvo Car Corporation's safety experts to deliver on the vision that no Volvo cars are to be involved in collisions in the future. One step on the way is the 2020 goal is that nobody should be seriously injured in a new Volvo car.
"We are taking clear steps in the right direction. We have a number of research projects with the aim to develop technologies for future Volvo models," says Jan Ivarsson, Senior Manager Safety Strategy & Requirements at Volvo Car Corporation.
Many of the new technologies are tailored to the way drivers behave in the modern traffic environment. Today's drivers differ from yesterday's. For instance, surveys from three different research institutes in the USA reveal that modern drivers spend 25 to 30 percent of their time behind the wheel doing other things, such as focusing on mobile communication.
Drivers who make phone calls and who check their email and text messages are becoming increasingly common - and since these situations affect the driver's attention on the road, they have to be taken into account when developing new technologies.
"In the modern mobile society we bring our social lives with us wherever we go. The car is no exception. For us it's quite simply a matter of creating technology that provides the driver with the right support at all times," relates Jan Ivarsson.
Volvo Car Corporation's research focuses on three main areas: staying safely in the current lane, avoiding accidents at crossroads and junctions, and avoiding collisions with wild animals. The following research projects are currently under way:
- Autonomous Driving Support
- Intersection Support
- Animal Detection
Autonomous driving in traffic queues
Autonomous Driving Support helps the driver stay in his or her lane and follow the rhythm of the traffic if queues build up.
"Driving in slow queues is a monotonous and boring part of many drivers' everyday lives. Thanks to technology for autonomous driving, the car can help the driver comfortably and safely follow the vehicle in front," explains Fredrik Lundholm, Function Developer at the Safety Functions department.
Using data from a camera and radar sensors, the car can follow the vehicle in front (see the graphics and video). The engine, brakes and steering respond automatically. If the vehicle in front is forced to make a quick move because of an obstacle in the road, the driver is assisted by the steering system, which makes the car veer in the same direction.
"This function has considerable scope for making the driver's life easier. Our first generation of advanced technology focuses on driving in queues at low speeds. The car follows the vehicle in front in the same lane. However, it is always the driver who decides. He or she can take control at any time," says Fredrik Lundholm.
Automatic braking at intersections
Crossroads and junctions are the most complex part of the modern traffic environment. When many road-users cross each other's paths simultaneously and from different directions, all that is needed is a small mistake to cause a serious accident.
In the USA, 21.5 percent of all fatal accidents in 2007 occurred in intersections, and in 16 EU countries (excluding Sweden) the corresponding figure was 20.6 percent in 2006.
Mattias Brännström, PhD Active Safety Functions, is responsible for Intersection Support, a research project within Volvo Car Corporation in collaboration with the Department of Signals and Systems at Chalmers University of Technology. The system alerts and automatically brakes for crossing traffic when necessary (see the graphics and video).
"Intersection Support uses sensors to assess the entire traffic scenario. If a critical situation is registered, a decision to intervene is taken at lightning speed," explains Mattias Brännström.
He exemplifies this by drawing a queue of cars turning left at an intersection. When the light turns green one car after another turns left. Suddenly an oncoming car drives through the red light - and creates an immediate danger.
"In this situation, the turning car automatically brakes to avoid a collision. Intersection Support thus serves as a system that not only helps deal with the driver's own mistakes, but those of other road users too," explains Mattias Brännström.
He says Volvo Car Corporation's safety approach is about getting cars to behave like people. The sensors are the eyes, the computers are the brain and the brakes are the muscles.
"With our advanced technology we're trying to do the same thing that people would do in the same situation if they have time to react. We want to provide assistance in as many situations as possible," says Mattias Brännström.
In order to obtain the necessary data for the development of these systems, cars are driven hundreds of thousands of kilometers in various traffic environments the world over. After all, the system has to be equally capable of helping drivers in Bangkok and Vancouver - and in a way that is tailored to local variations in driving style and traffic intensity.
Animal Detection focuses on collisions with wild animals
Of course this collection of data is not restricted to urban environments. Out in the countryside and in more remote areas there are many serious collisions involving wild animals.
Accidents involving wild animals are a major international traffic problem. In Canada, about 40,000 such accidents leading to vehicle damage are reported every year. Sweden reported 47,000 animal collisions in 2010. Of these 7,000 were elk collisions. The conditions in Canada and Sweden are also found in Norway, Finland and Russia. In the USA, about 200 people a year are killed in impacts with wild animals, mostly with deer.
However, these official accident statistics do not reveal the whole truth. For instance, they do not include all those accidents in which a driver swerves to avoid an animal and instead collides with another vehicle or veers off the road. According to a University of Umeå study of accidents between 2003 and 2010, no less than 23 percent of fatalities occurred after drivers swerved to avoid elk in the roadway - and these figures do not show up in the official statistics of collisions with wild animals.
Volvo Car Corporation is now working on Animal Detection, a system that detects and automatically brakes for animals both in daylight and in the dark (see the graphics and video).
"The technology is a further development of our pedestrian protection system. Considerable attention has been focused on ensuring that the system works in the dark since most collisions with wild animals take place at dawn and dusk," explains Andreas Eidehall, Technical Expert Active Safety.
Accidents with wild animals often take place at cruising speeds. The aim is to reduce the speed of impact from about 100-110 km/h to below 80 km/h. Once speed drops below 80 km/h, the car's safety systems are effective and the risk of serious injuries is small. This requires the ability to detect the animal from a distance of about 30 meters.
Another important aspect is response time - the time lapse between object identification and system reaction.
"With advanced technology we can shorten the response time still further in order to enhance the system's effectiveness," says Andreas Eidehall.
The system is trained to recognize the shapes of animals and their movement patterns via a vast amount of collected data. The gathering of images of animals in motion takes place on a continuous basis. But since wild animals have in many respects mastered the art of staying out of sight, this is a complex process.
"There is a huge challenge in collecting data that helps us understand how we can detect what nature has done its best to conceal. The focus is on large animals since they cause the most damage and the most severe injuries. We have worked with elk and large stags, but have now also included horses and cattle. One future step will be the ability to detect smaller animals such as deer and wild boar," says Anders Eidehall.
Success requires cooperation
"Development of these technologies is progressing very quickly," Jan Ivarsson concludes. "And with steadily lower prices for sensors and other electronic components, it is our intention that these advanced solutions will in future be fitted to all our cars. Having said that, close cooperation with the relevant public authorities, insurance companies and other car manufacturers is also vital for achieving the vision of an accident-free traffic environment."
Puma Takes Inshore Title As Groupma Celebrates Overall Victory
A PUMA team decked out in Irish rugby shirts rounded off the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 in style on Saturday, securing victory in the In-Port Race series with a win on the waters of Galway on a day that saw Groupama celebrate overall success in sailing's toughest challenge.
Ken Read’s team scored a commanding first place in the Discover Ireland In-Port Race, their ninth podium finish of the 10-race inshore series and a first victory.
An electrifying scrap for second between CAMPER and Groupama saw the two teams virtually inseparable right to the end of the 8.2-nautical mile course with Chris Nicholson's team stealing the runners-up prize on the day, and in the series as a whole.
A last-minute comeback from Telefónica saw them steal the final podium position from Groupama on Saturday, but fourth was enough to give the French team third overall in the inshore series.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing finished fifth ahead of Team Sanya.
“It tastes very sweet,” said PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG skipper Ken Read who punched the air in delight as he steered Mar Mostro over the finish line.
“To race against the best sailors in the world and come out on top is all we can ask for.”
A third place in the inshore series rounded off a fantastic Volvo Ocean Race debut for Franck Cammas' crew on Groupama 4, cementing their reputation as one of the slickest teams in the race in whether racing offshore or around a short course.
“For sure it is a big dream – it's a great feeling for everyone,” Cammas said ahead of a special prize-giving which will see him hold up the newly designed Volvo Ocean Race Trophy. “We did not expect it so it's a big surprise, but it's a good one.
“I think the secret was that we were outsiders at the beginning and we were forced to learn all the time. We had to learn to race against the best crews in the world and eventually it got easier. We made mistakes at the start but all the time we tried to get better, right until the finish in Galway.”
The thousands of spectators who turned out in force to watch the grand finale were treated to a thrilling start, with CAMPER and Abu Dhabi leading through the downwind line as the fleet split towards the first mark in 12 to 16 knots from the north north-west.
Both teams picked the right-hand side along with Telefónica, but it was the boats in the other group – PUMA and overall race winners Groupama sailing team – who led round the first mark.
A penalty for obstructing Sanya saw Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew relegated to sixth, as PUMA, Groupama and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand fought it out at the head of the fleet.
By the fourth mark the PUMA crew had eked out a 26-second lead, challenging Groupama and CAMPER to pull out something special to catch them.
Meanwhile Sanya and Telefónica locked horns in pursuit of fourth while Abu Dhabi tried to reduce the huge deficit caused by their penalty.
Driven to score their first in-port win, there was no stopping PUMA as a flawless performance saw them extended their lead, holding on to take the win around the 8.2 nautical mile course by one minute and 19 seconds and secure the overall in-port title.
CAMPER's second in the inshore series rounded off a successful Volvo Ocean Race campaign which also saw them take second in the overall rankings.
“This race is the easiest race in the world to lose,” said skipper Nicholson, “so to be runner up when we've had quite a few troubles on the way is great. We've shown a lot of character along the way.”
The 2011-12 edition was always tipped to be the closest edition in 39 years of the event and it didn't disappoint.
Groupama, the first French team to compete since Eric Tabarly's La Poste crew in 1993-94, finally secured victory with a second-place finish in Leg 9 from Lorient to Galway.
Telefónica, led by Spanish Olympic gold medallist Iker Martínez, won the first three legs but a string of disappointing results saw them finish in fourth overall.
The next edition of the race will start in 2014 and will be raced in 65ft one-design boats from Farr Yacht Design.
Results of Discover Ireland In-Port Race, Galway:
1. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 53 minutes 12 seconds
2. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand + 1:19
3. Team Telefónica: + 1:56
4. Groupama sailing team: + 2:29
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing: +4:00
6. Team Sanya: +4:32
Groupma Completes Victory In Closests Ever Volvo Ocean Race After Epic Eight-Month Journey
Groupama crossed the finish line in the pitch black Galway night to secure a remarkable overall victory in their debut Volvo Ocean Race campaign and finally settle the closest contest in the event’s 39-year history.
While CAMPER were celebrating victory in the ninth and final leg, Groupama skipper Franck Cammas led his team home in second place to take an unassailable 24-point lead with just one in-port race to go.
Cammas, the 39-year-old Frenchman, threw his arms up and pumped his fists in the air while tens of thousands of fans gathered on the dock of Galway Bay to roar home the team -- including Irishman Damian Foxall -- to a remarkable victory in their first appearance in the race.
For CAMPER, notching up their first leg win of the race was a longed-for achievement and it all but guarantees they will finish second overall. PUMA, in third place on the night, will finish behind them in third overall unless CAMPER somehow fail to complete Saturday’s In-Port Race and PUMA go on to win it.
But the night belonged to Groupama as they reaped the benefits of exhaustive preparation and more than eight months of the most extreme ocean racing.
Not since Lionel Péan skippered L’Esprit d’Equipe to victory in 1985-86 has a French team tasted glory in sailing’s toughest challenge.
"This is an incredible moment for me," Cammas said. "It was always my dream just to participate in this race. The first book I ever read was about the Whitbread. It has been an incredible day for me and it hasn't sunk in yet.
"Without any doubt this is the best (thing I've done). This is the longest and the hardest event to win. It started badly but every one of us raised our level."
The team overcame a stream of challenges during the epic race including a testing first leg, disappointing results in the early in-port races and the loss of their mast in Leg 5.
Despite the setbacks, Cammas and his crew continued to improve, pulling back from a 28-point deficit after the Sanya Haitang Bay In-Port Race to take their first offshore win in Leg 4, arriving into Auckland first despite the discovery of a serious crack in the hull within 100 miles of the line. They finally usurped long-term race leaders Telefónica from the top of the standings at the end of Leg 7.
Subsequent wins in the Oeiras In-Port Race in Lisbon, Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient and the Bretagne In-Port Race only served to cement their position at the top of the leaderboard and bolster the team’s confidence heading into the final two scoring opportunities.
Despite going into the final 550 nautical mile leg from Lorient to Lisbon with a 25-point margin over second-placed PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, overall victory was far from guaranteed as the six boats set sail from Groupama’s home port of Lorient bound for Galway.
With early race leaders Telefónica looking to recover the form that saw them win the first three offshore legs, PUMA wanting to better their second-place overall finish in the 2008-09 race and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand itching to score their first offshore win, the pressure was on the frontrunners from the off.
But with breezy reaching forecast for the sprint out of the Bay of Biscay and across the Celtic Sea, conditions in which the team’s Volvo Open 70 Groupama 4 excels, they were always going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Groupama only needed to finish fourth to secure overall victory but they went two better, seeing off challenges through wild conditions in the English Channel and around the iconic Fastnet Rock, to finish second across the line at 00:49:11 UTC, seven minutes behind CAMPER, and seal their place in the history books as race winners.
"Even before we sarted this last leg I knew we were going to win it," CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson said. " It's been a privilege and I'm proud to have been part of this team. I look at what everyone does day in day out and I think this is the sailing team’s way of saying thank you."
PUMA finished in third at 00:55:01 UTC ahead of Team Telefónica, who finished at 00:59:33 UTC.
At 0200 UTC Sanya were around 10 miles from the line, with a narrow lead over Abu Dhabi.
Six points will be up for grabs for first place, five for second, four for third and so on when the final in-port race of the epic 39,000 nautical mile ocean race takes place on July 7.