Self-parking just the beginning of ’15 Volvo XC90’s tech

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2015 Volvo XC90 auto brake media image

The 2015 Volvo XC90 will have the ability to automatically stop itself if the driver attempts to make a turn across oncoming traffic that may cause a crash, according to Volvo. That’s just one of many active safety features the car will have. (Image courtesy Volvo)

The 2015 Volvo XC90 is practically the only thing Volvo’s public relations people seem to want to talk about lately. With technology this cool coming soon to a Volvo dealer near you, we can see why.

My inbox got hit twice this week by Volvo press releases. The first one outlined the ’15 Volvo XC90’s ability to park itself in both parallel and “bay” situations. The second gave a more exhaustive look at the automatic braking, semi-autonomous driving safety technologies to be found on the SUV when it hits our shores.

Parking power

There have been plenty of automakers who did autonomous parallel parking already — perhaps a byproduct of America’s nonexistent driver education system leaving a nation of drivers largely incapable or, at best, intimidated by the thought of pulling up, cutting the wheel, and backing in the way God intended. Ford has parallel parking assist on a number of its vehicles as an option, for instance. But the 2015 Volvo XC90 is the first vehicle I’ve heard of that will have not just parallel, but “bay” parking automation. So any parking space, anytime, the Volvo XC90 will put you in there perfectly.

I’m imagining a Utopian future of the parking lot at my local Dollar General Market no longer having precariously parked mom-mobiles poised to door-ding or bumper-scrape my ride into a nice, fat cosmetic repair bill while I shop for groceries. I swear, if you visited my part of the country, you’d be appalled the number of people who are incapable of sticking even average-sized cars into parking spaces without hanging at least part of the car over the lines of the parking box or crowding the car next door. Complicating matters: Big, enormous pickup trucks are popular here as daily drivers. If I go a day without seeing a Ford Super Duty or Ram 3500 dually taking up two or more parking spaces, I might consider buying a lottery ticket.

The press release said the 2015 Volvo XC90 uses 12 ultrasonic sensors all around the car to let it “see” the parking space. When parallel parking, the sensors first scan along the passenger side of the car, then the Park Assist Pilot system sounds a chime when a large-enough opening is found. “Large enough” in this case equaling 1.2 times the car’s length. At that point, you can turn it over to Park Assist Pilot for a perfect parking job every time. If you’re curious about the minimum requirements for a bay parking space, by the way, the 2015 Volvo Xc90’s Park Assist Pilot requires at least the car’s width plus one meter, Volvo said.

The 2015 Volvo XC90 also gets a Swedish take on Nissan’s Around View Monitor, according to the automaker, which even gave it a similar name — 360-degree Surround View. In addition, Cross Traffic Alert will let the driver know if any traffic is approaching from up to 30 meters away on either side while the driver is attempting to back out of a parking space.

“One of the safest cars ever made”

Volvo said the 2015 Volvo XC90 will be “one of the safest cars ever made” by virtue of its suite of safety features. Among them:

  • Volvo Lane Keeping Aid will try to keep the car in its lane if it begins to drift out unintentionally, while Driver Alert Control with Rest Stop Guidance can alert the driver of inattentiveness that may lead to an eventual highway-leaving crash. Should that not be enough to stop the car from running out of the road, Volvo’s Safe Positioning system will tighten the occupants’ seat belts in anticipation of an impact event. Should the vehicle go airborne in such an event, Volvo said energy-absorbing material between the seat and seat frame will help prevent spinal injuries that are “serious and relatively frequent consequences of these situations.”
  • Automatic braking can stop drivers of the 2015 Volvo XC90 from turning in front of oncoming traffic at intersections, according to the automaker.
  • Rear impacts protection comes in the form of a number of safety features. Rear radar sensors will pick up on the situation if there’s a rear-end crash imminent, tighten the occupants’ seat belts, flash the rear lights to warn the oncoming driver, and activate the brakes to mitigate the potential for sliding into the vehicle ahead of you or, perhaps, into an active intersection full of crossing traffic. Meanwhile, Volvo’s WHIPS whiplash protection system reduces the likelihood of severe neck injury, the automaker said.
  • Roll stability control attempts to stop rollovers before they can happen by reducing engine torque and applying one or more brakes on individual wheels as needed, Volvo said. If a rollover does happen, however, the 2015 Volvo XC90 will have inflatable side curtain airbags that cover all three rows of seats for an extended period of time to help prevent head injuries, according to Volvo.
  • City Safety automatic brake support will be standard equipment in the 2015 Volvo XC90. The vehicle’s sensors will determine if the driver is at high risk of having a collision with another vehicle — or even a bicyclist or pedestrian — the system will take over and apply the brakes fully, Volvo said.
  • Extended Road Sign Information is designed to display an extended selection of supplementary road signs in the display in front of the driver.
  • Blind Spot Information System informs the driver when a vehicle is in the 2015 Volvo XC90’s blind spots.
  • In what could perhaps be one of the first widely used autonomous car technologies in America, the 2015 Volvo XC90 will be able to follow the car ahead of it in a line with Volvo Queue Assist. So when you’re waiting in line in a drive-thru or at the drive-up window at your bank, the vehicle will handle all steering, acceleration, and braking automatically.
  • Finally, Volvo said the 2015 Volvo XC90 will make more use of hot-formed boron steel, which the automaker called the “strongest type of steel presently used in the car body industry.” That steel is used in making a “safety cage” (Volvo’s words) around the vehicle occupants, designed to offer increased protection in all sorts of crash scenarios.

The 2015 Volvo XC90 looks poised to take Volvo to the next level of safety — not to mention infotainment and powertrain — technologies. With the car company’s stated goal that nobody should be killed or injured in a new Volvo car by the year 2020, one can only imagine what the safety gurus in Gothenburg might be cooking up for their next generation of vehicles to come after the 2015 Volvo XC90.

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