Volvo has a history of shaping many safety features we take for granted today, regardless of what brand of car we drive. From the first introduction of the safety cage in 1944 and pioneering laminated windshields that same year, Volvo has always prided itself as a safety trailblazer. Now the Swedish automotive company is further developing its cloud-based infotainment system as part of a safety-focused pilot project.
In conjunction with the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens Vegvesen), Volvo has placed 50 test vehicles on Scandinavian roads, each able to automatically communicate real-time data about road conditions with each other and road administrators.
When one of the test cars detects icy or slippery conditions, road friction information is transmitted via the mobile phone network to Volvo Cars’ database. A warning is then transmitted to nearby vehicles and a slippery road warning on the instrument cluster alerts drivers approaching the hazard to take appropriate action. An alert is also sent to road maintenance authorities to help improve the management of dangerous conditions.
"When the road administrator has access to information from a large number of cars, the data can be used to make winter road maintenance more efficient," says Erik Israelsson, Project Leader Cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars. "The information could help to improve road safety further for all road users."
Volvo stresses that no data identifying the vehicle is shared with the road administrator and that the aggregated information is used for the sole purpose of describing the current status of the road network. Volvo plans to make the technology available to consumers within a few years
"The pilot is one of the first practical examples of the way communication between vehicles over the mobile network enables vehicles to 'speak' to each other and with the traffic environment," says Israelsson. "This is only the beginning. In the future we will have increased exchange of vital information between vehicles. There is considerable potential in this area, including safer traffic, a more comfortable drive and an improved traffic flow."
Volvo isn't the only company to recognize the potential for enhanced vehicle communications to improve safety and convenience. Mercedes, BMW, GM and Toyota, are just some of the companies working on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications systems.