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Volvo XC60 'safe' in city

Within a year: Latest XC model arrives here in early 2009.

XC60 SUV will have Volvo’s low-speed braking system fitted as standard in Australia

19 Mar 2008

WHEN the new Volvo XC60 is launched in Australia early next year, it will be fitted standard with the company’s newly developed ‘City Safety’ low-speed automatic braking system.

It is designed to prevent or at least minimise collisions at speeds below 30km/h, which the company says accounts for some 75 per cent of all reported accidents.

Furthermore, Volvo says that surveys indicate that in 50 per cent of those cases – which means more than one-third of all accidents – the driver has not braked at all before the collision, mainly due to having been distracted.

Volvo’s new low-speed system – as opposed to its own and other car-makers’ systems that operate at higher speeds – should reduce the number and severity of these relatively slow but nevertheless annoying and expensive accidents.

It employs a laser sensor located at the top of the windscreen to monitor closing speeds within 10 metres of the vehicle’s front bumper, then preparing and sometimes activating the brakes before the driver has reacted to an impending collision.

Volvo, which previewed the system at this month’s Geneva motor show, is consequently holding discussions with insurance companies globally to try to secure more favourable rates for XC60 drivers.

18 center imageInsurance companies around the world have been critical of car-makers for not making their cars cheaper to repair following low-speed accidents.

Australia’s largest motor vehicle insurer, the NRMA, conducts an internationally accredited crash program that determines the cost of repair after being subjected to a pendulum test, equivalent to a vehicle colliding with the rear of another vehicle at 30km/h.

NMRA industry research manager Robert McDonald said that the NRMA has “a strong interest in keeping the cost of collision repairs affordable for all Australians”.

“Car-makers should be designing vehicles that not only look good and function properly but also produce financial benefits to consumers in lower repair costs,” said Mr McDonald. “Without proper consideration at the design stage it is car owners that ultimately pay the price through escalating repair costs and insurance premiums.” Based on the gap to the vehicle in front and the XC60’s speed, Volvo’s City Safety system makes 50 calculations a second to determine what braking force would be needed to avoid a collision.

In a low-speed situation such as stop-start traffic, if the vehicle in front brakes suddenly and the program determines that a collision is imminent, the brakes are ‘pre-charged’, making them ready for rapid application. Should the driver remain inactive, the car will apply the brakes automatically.

If the relative speed difference between the two vehicles is less than 15km/h then City Safety may help the driver entirely avoid the collision. Between 15 and 30km/h, the focus is on reducing speed as much as possible prior to the impact.

The manager of preventive safety at Volvo Car Corporation’s Car Safety Centre, Jonas Ekmark, said he was pleased to offer such new technology as a standard feature in the new XC60.

“City Safety is yet another example of Volvo’s ambition to tackle real-life traffic situations when developing solutions aimed at preventing accidents,” said Mr Ekmark.

“However, it is important to underline that City Safety does not relieve the driver of the responsibility for maintaining a safe distance to avoid a collision.

“The automatic braking function does not react until it considers that a collision is imminent. City Safety will help reduce the consequences or completely avoid an imminent collision.” Volvo says that the system works equally well during the day and night, but warns that the laser sensor’s detection capacity can be limited by fog, snow or heavy rain. So, although the sensor is covered by the sweep of the windscreen wipers, owners need to pay attention to keeping the screen free of dirt, ice and snow.

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