The next Volvo XC90 SUV will arrive in 2014 with loaded with world-first safety technology to take on the Audi Q7 and Land Rover Discovery. The safety arsenal will include after-dark pedestrian detection, road barrier detection, as well as fully autonomous cruise control and parking capability.
It’s the latest salvo from Volvo’s crack team of safety-obsessed engineers in the fight to realise the company’s ‘Vision 2020’ target – that no occupant of a new Volvo will be killed or seriously injured in an accident by 2020. It sounds ambitious – impossible, even – but here’s how Volvo plans to save your life.
After-dark pedestrian-spotting sounds a little sinister…
Spotting pedestrians at night: stand-up comedy material, or Orwellian nightmare? Volvo reckons it’s actually a game-changer for pedestrian detection technology, functioning in the dark and capable of alerting the driver to errant jaywalkers, cyclists and other vehicles. If the XC90’s pilot takes no avoiding action, the car will auto-brake itself to an emergency stop.
The system will be updated soon after the XC90 arrives in 2014, to include animal detection – handy if your rural commute has ever encountered wild livestock with a poor grasp of the Highway Code. However, because the animal-seeing eye needs a different camera, the system won’t be a retrofit update available to buyers of the earliest 2014 XC90s.
Haven’t we seen active lane-keep-assist steering before?
Yes, but all the current systems depend on road markings to keep the car in its lane. Volvo’s new road-edge detection needs no such guidance, and will even steer you away from roadside barriers if you’re edging too close.
Sounds like the new Volvo XC90 will practically drive itself…
In fact, it will. Like the new Mercedes S-class, the 2014 XC90 uses radar-guided cruise control to follow the car ahead, automatically accelerating and braking to keep up with traffic. In combination with the active lane-assist gadget, it’ll also steer itself. Like all autonomous driving systems though, you’ll still have to maintain concentration, or the car’s drowsiness sensors will intervene with incessant alarm sounds.
And while plenty of cars offer automatic parking systems – even superminis like the Peugeot 208, Volvo is working on the next level – a gizmo that will drive itself around a car park, detect a large-enough space (it’ll have to be large, for the seven-seat XC90) and then go ahead and park itself.
Volvo’s dream is to allow drivers to vacate the car at the car park entrance, and leave the XC90 to go and sort itself out with a space. Similar systems are in development by everyone from Audi to Nissan. So, not only are you safer in the car, you’ll also spend less time in it overall…
What else do we know about the next-gen Volvo XC90?
The 2014 XC90 will use Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA), which will also underpin the next-gen S60 saloon, V70 estate and XC60 crossover. It’ll be lighter than today’s model and, with the current car’s five-cylinder diesel replaced by a more efficient range of four-cylinder engines. The car’s underpinnings have been designed to incorporate battery packs and a rear-axle electric motor, allowing an XC90 Hybrid model for the first time.