One of the worldwide leaders in safety, Volvo Cars, is sending a strong signal about the dangers of speeding and will limit the top speed on all its cars to 180kph from 2020.
The company’s Vision 2020, which aims for no one to be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020, is one of the most ambitious safety visions in the automotive industry. But realising that technology alone will not get it all the way to zero, Volvo Cars is now broadening its scope to include a focus on driver behaviour.
Research by Volvo Cars has identified three remaining concerns for safety that constitute so-called ‘gaps’ in its ambition to completely end serious injuries and fatalities in its cars, with speeding a very prominent one.
Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo, says the company is a leader in safety, always has been and always will be.
"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.”
Apart from limiting top speeds, the company is also investigating how a combination of smart speed control and geofencing technology could automatically limit speeds around schools and hospitals in future.
“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 a driver's behaviour, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction,” said Samuelsson. “We don’t have a firm answer to this question, but believe we should take leadership in the discussion and be a pioneer.”
The problem with speeding is that above certain speeds, in-car safety technology and smart infrastructure design are no longer enough to avoid severe injuries and fatalities in the event of an accident. That is why speed limits are in place in most Western countries, yet speeding remains ubiquitous and one of the most common reasons for fatalities in traffic.
Millions of people still get speeding tickets every year and traffic accident data from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration shows that 25 per cent of all traffic fatalities in the US in 2017 were caused by speeding.
Beyond speeding, two other problem areas constitute ‘gaps toward zero’. As obvious as speeding is (and as difficult to end ) is intoxication. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in large parts of the world, yet it remains a prime reason for injuries and fatalities on today’s roads.
The other area is distraction. Drivers distracted by their mobile phones or otherwise not fully engaged in driving are another major cause of traffic fatailities. In many ways, they are equally dangerous as drunk drivers.
Volvo Cars will present ideas to tackle the problem areas of intoxication and distraction at a special safety event in Gothenburg, Sweden, on March 20.