Volvo: Scalable Architecture, Like Everything Else, Is About Safety

Sections: Car Safety, Chassis

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New Volvo XC90 Safety Cage Press Illustration

An illustration shows the breakdown of metals used in construction of the next-generation Volvo XC90’s safety cage. The automaker says it features 40% hot-formed steel, improving overall strength of the cage in collisions. (Image courtesy Volvo Cars)

So Volvo has this scalable architecture on which it will build future cars, and — like all things Volvo does, seemingly — it’s all about improving safety.

According to a press release from Volvo, the new architecture “enables the company to reinforce its safety leadership and increase its momentum toward the aim that by 2020, no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo.”

Volvo Cars Senior Manager of Safety Strategy and Requirements Jan Ivarsson said, “We retain our uncompromising attitude to offering superior crash protection. The new architecture opens up for further improvements. Seven percent of the safety cage in the original XC90 was made of hot-formed boron steel. The structure in the upcoming all-new XC90 features more than 40 percent hot-formed steel, which translates into significantly improved strength without adding mass or weight.”

In addition, the release said Volvos’ effective brain power would go up as well, allowing it to better adjust things like seatbelt pretensioners ahead of a crash as well as see things like a rear-end collision coming by using its rear-view camera. These kinds of reactions are possible because the scalable architecture has four domain masters — one each for vehicle dynamics, safety, car body, and infotainment, the release added.

Volvo Cars Senior Vice President of Research and Development Peter Mertens said, “Each master can be connected to every single unit in the whole architecture. This means that we have one single nerve system with full control over all the connections in the vehicle. This is unique in the industry.”

The press release offered a glimpse into Volvo’s intentions when it comes to using the scalable architecture:

A holistic system built around people

The driver is literally the core of Volvo Cars’ holistic approach, which is based on real traffic situations:

Embracing the driver

The driver and passengers are embraced by solutions designed for intelligent absorption of energy in various types of collisions. The safety technologies – such as safety belts, pre-tensioners, whiplash protection system, airbags and inflatable curtains – are continuously being enhanced.

In cars built on the new SPA architecture, the smart belt pre-tension systems increase occupant security before and during a collision. For example, the rear-facing radar is used to detect a rear impact. This allows the safety belts to be tightened in advance to keep the occupants in place.

Sophisticated strength

The new patented SPA safety cage, with its mix of different steel grades, has been made stronger and smarter. The superior strength is achieved by more extensive use of boron steel.

Crash avoidance

Camera, radar and sensor technologies are extended to detect more objects around the car and to offer support at higher speeds and in more situations – at crossings, for example.

“One of the most important focus areas within collision-avoidance is helping prevent unintentional road departures by autonomous steering intervention in critical situations. Unintentional road departure results in most deaths and serious injuries in modern traffic,” says Ivarsson.

The new features also include detection and auto brake for large animals and pedestrians when driving in the dark.

Enhancing the driving experience

The sensors used by the collision-avoiding solutions are part of the extended range of features that makes the drive more enjoyable by simplifying complex traffic situations. This includes Adaptive Cruise Control with steer assist, introduced in the upcoming all-new XC90. The car automatically follows the vehicle ahead in slow moving traffic. The Scalable Platform Architecture is also designed to accommodate the implementation of autonomous technologies all the way to self-driving cars.

Seeing around the corner

To exchange communication with other vehicles, the infrastructure extends the driver’s theoretical field of vision beyond the capacity of the camera, radar and sensors. With Car2Car and Car2Infrastructure technology in place, vital information can be shared and exchanged – creating a more comfortable and safer drive.

The technology opens up a multitude of safety and support possibilities, such as obtaining road friction information, advance warnings and detour options to avoid traffic, creating a green light wave and finding free parking spots.

Always in touch with the world

The modern desire to be constantly connected is moving into the car. Connectivity can be used to make driving safer and more comfortable – but bringing it into the driver’s seat is also a challenge from a safety perspective.

The desire to stay online may divert the driver’s focus from the road. This is a field where Volvo Cars believes that autonomous drive will play an important role. Not having to supervise the drive continuously in certain situations allows the driver to focus safely on something else.

“Allowing the car to act automatically is crucial when moving toward the vision that future cars will not crash at all. The technologies enabled by our new Scalable Product Architecture will bring us significantly closer to this ultimate goal,” concludes Ivarsson.

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