Volvo is a company known primarily for two things: safety and cars that look like the crate they're shipped in. The company may have lost the boxy image years ago, but it has never lost its dedication to safety. At the forefront of a raft of safety trends and developments for decades, Volvo recently announced that it is escalating its ongoing project allowing cars to share information about road conditions.
Unlike a lot of other car-to-car information sharing concepts that focus on improving traffic flow and cutting down on congestion, Volvo's connectivity project focuses on cars sharing information on road conditions related to road friction via a cloud-based network. Think of the system as providing a series of tiny, rolling road condition reports that are localized to where you are and aimed only at you.
To provide a more complete picture of how the system will work in real winter traffic conditions, Volvo has recently expanded the test fleet from about 50 cars to 1,000 and will expand the test area to include Gothenburg and Oslo. This is as it moves into the testing and validation phase of the technology, which it is aiming to bring to customers within a few years’ time.
"The more information that can be shared on the road, the fewer surprises there are," says Erik Israelsson, Project Leader Cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars. "And when you’re driving, surprises are what you most want to avoid. In light of that, we’ve developed a slippery-road alert, which notifies drivers about icy patches and contributes to making winter road maintenance more efficient. We’re also adding a hazard-light alert, which will tell drivers if another vehicle in the area has its hazard lights on. With these first two features, we have a great platform for developing additional safety features. This is just the beginning."
The Norwegian Public Roads Administration, which is collaborating with Volvo on the project, will conduct an independent assessment of the system to identify additional uses for the data in aiding future winter road maintenance. How pragmatically logical and Scandinavian can you get?
And unsurprisingly, Volvo has bigger plans than simply warning of icy roads, with the current pilot project of hazard-light and slippery-road alerts only the first safety features in the Volvo cloud. The expansion of high-level communication via the mobile network is part of Volvo’s aim to offer customers a fully connected driving experience.
"In the future we will have increased the exchange of vital information between vehicles, as well as between vehicles and infrastructure," Erik Israelsson adds. "There is considerable potential in this area, including safer traffic, a more comfortable drive and improved traffic flow. This will bring us closer to our safety vision that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car."
Laudable goals to be sure, and given Volvo's track record of workable, practical solutions to automotive safety problems, well in keeping with the company's history.