Every year, 1.3 million people are killed and 50 million injured on the world’s roads. Carmakers are racing to create a vehicle that will never crash, but can it be done and will drivers accept a computer that overrides their driving? Less than 30 years ago, “clunk clicking” ourselves into our car seat belts seemed like the cutting edge of road safety technology. Since then, we’ve seen airbags, anti-lock braking systems and crumple zones fitted to new cars.
Now the arrival of crash avoidance technology – systems that can alert drivers to danger and even take action to prevent accidents from happening – promises to cut the number of crashes on our roads. So confident is Volvo of the power of its technology, it has pledged that beyond the year 2020, no-one will be killed or seriously injured in one of its new cars. In essence, the Swedish manufacturer is aiming to build a vehicle that will fully protect its occupants and crash less.
“The major cause of crashes is the driver not paying attention or drivers being distracted. This technology is giving cars eyes and knows when the driver fails,” explains Thomas Broberg, Volvo’s senior technical adviser for safety at the company’s research centre in Gothenburg.
Other carmakers are making similar commitments. Toyota says it is aiming for zero fatalities and injuries, although it has not yet said when that goal would be achieved. And Ford is already marketing its new Focus – with its self-proclaimed “intelligent protection system” – as one of the safest vehicles on the mass market.
So what is the latest technology and can it really prevent crashes?
Find out here How close are we to a crash-proof car?.