Volvo uses tech to control drivers

Volvo Cars has revealed a new step in its ambitions to end fatalities in its cars by addressing the issues of intoxication and distraction.

Apart from speeding, which the company aims to help combat with a top speed limit, intoxication and distraction are two other primary areas of concern for traffic safety. Together, says Volvo, these three areas constitute the main ‘gaps’ towards its vision of a future with zero traffic fatalities, and require a focus on human behaviour in the company’s safety work as well.

Volvo believes intoxication and distraction should be addressed by installing in-car cameras and other sensors that monitor the driver and allow the car to intervene if a clearly intoxicated or distracted driver does not respond to warning signals and is risking an accident involving serious injury or death.

That intervention could involve limiting the car’s speed, alerting the Volvo On Call assistance service and, as a final course of action, actively slowing down and safely parking the car.

Introduction of the cameras on all Volvo models will start on the next generation of Volvo’s scalable SPA2 vehicle platform in the early 2020s. Details on the exact amount of cameras and their positioning in the interior will follow at a later stage.

This announcement should be viewed together with the company limiting the top speed on all its cars to 180kph (112mph) from model year 2021, in order to send a strong signal about the dangers of speeding.

The company apparently wants to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right, or maybe even the obligation, to install technology in cars that changes their drivers’ behaviour, saying that both the speed limit and the installation of in-car cameras illustrate how car makers can take active responsibility for the aim of achieving zero traffic fatalities by supporting better driver behaviour.

Volvo Cars has also revealed the Care Key, which allows Volvo drivers to impose limitations on the car’s top speed on all cars from model year 2021, before lending their car to others. The Care Key, the monitoring cameras, the speed limit as well as existing driver-assistance systems, says Volvo, all serve one single aim: to support safer driving.

Whether drivers will feel the same way is another matter. We foresee some protests about civil liberty.