Volvo’s all new 2015 XC90 is so safe, it detects and avoids accidents before they happen

I was in my first car accident in a Volvo. When I was seven, a drunk driver hit my mom and me in the family 240 Wagon. We both walked away without a scratch, thanks to the fact that the 240 was built more strongly than most warships. But – amazingly – if we had been in the all-new Volvo XC90, that accident might never have happened.

Volvo’s new flagship is aiming to set a new standard not just with crash worthiness but also with ways to avoid those accidents in the first place.

Rear impacts? No problem

The system that might have prevented my accident is the rear impact protection system. We were stopped at a stop sign when we were struck by an old Ford pickup going around 45 mph. To prevent – or at least mitigate – those accidents, the XC90 has rear-facing radar that alerts the driver if it detects a potential rear collision. This gives the driver a chance to avoid the accident.

If the driver of the Volvo can’t avoid the impact, the XC90 swings into action itself. The seatbelts pretension to the safest position for the impact and the brakes are used to mitigate the force.

As smart as this system is, it just scratches the surface of the kind of safety Volvo has built into the XC90. In fact, the big luxury SUV incorporates two world firsts in safety.

Volvo XC90 Safety 5

Where no safety engineer has gone before

The first of these, the Safe Positioning system, is designed to help mitigate run-off road or single car accidents. Like the rear impact system, at the core of this system is a series of sensors. These sensors detect if the vehicle is leaving the road, and responds by adjusting the seat belts.

The belts work in concert with specially designed seats to mitigate not just the sort of horizontal forces encountered in vehicle on vehicle accidents, but the vertical forces the XC90 might encounter in a hard landing as the car leaves the road. In fact this system can reduce the impact by fully one-third.

Combined with Volvo’s active roll-over protection that not only applies brakes individually to help prevent the car from tipping, but also reduces engine torque to prevent the rotational force from affecting stability and the result is a truly world class level of safety.

The really stunning thing about this system is that Volvo has developed it despite the fact that there is not one safety test or regulation requiring it. Instead, Volvo engineers developed it because they crunched the numbers and found that as many as half of all traffic fatalities are caused in accidents like the ones the system is designed to mitigate.

After all, this is Volvo, and as the brand’s safety engineer Prof. Lotta Jakobsson says, “Committing to safety is not about passing a test or getting a ranking.”

Let Volvo do the work

The other world first in safety, is Volvo’s auto-braking system. This system is designed to prevent accidents where the driver of the XC90 turns in front of an oncoming car. If the Volvo’s combination of radars and ultrasonic sensors detect an imminent collision the brakes are applied to avoid, or at least mitigate it.

But this is just part of what Volvo has done to not only make the XC90 safer but also reducing driver workload.

To that end the XC90 is now capable of following the vehicle ahead in heavy traffic. This isn’t just the active cruise control increasingly common on new cars, but also uses the steering to keep the vehicle positioned behind the one ahead of it, and in the lane.

Parking is also partially automated. Twelve ultrasonic sensors scan the area around the car, providing the driver with a 360-degree bird’s eye view of what is happening around the car. This system will also notify the driver when a sufficiently large space has been found, and is capable of steering into the space by itself, so long as the driver controls the throttle.

XC90 Safety 7

Safe at any speed

It says something about Volvo’s commitment to safety, that I have written nearly 700 words without even mentioning the actual structure of the car.

This could be a story in and of itself, if anyone actually wanted to read about the intricacies of hot-formed boron steel. But, because this is not a Swedish technical journal, I will simply say this the XC90 uses more of this high strength steel than any of its competitors and five times as much as the previous generation.

The XC90 may stand out more because of its styling, luxury features, and impressive power. But as with many Volvos what will really set it apart from everyone else is its incredible commitment to safety. As professor Jakobsson says, “We lead, the industry follows.”

Product Review

The Ferrari Portofino is the super stallion you’ll want to drive every day

With the introduction of the Portofino, Ferrari addresses the California T’s stylistic shortcomings while improving comfort, convenience, and performance. There’s little “entry-level” about this super stallion.
Cars

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.
Cars

Volvo wants to use speed limiters, in-car cameras, and data to reduce crashes

Volvo believes new tech is the best way to improve car safety. The Swedish automaker will let owners set speed limits when loaning out their cars, install cameras to monitor drivers, and use data to design better safety features.
Cars

Shift it yourself: How to drive stick in a manual transmission car

Driving a manual transmission car might seem intimidating at first, but it's not as difficult as you might think. Knowing how to operate this type of gearbox will serve you well. Here's everything you need to know to learn how to drive…
Cars

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.
Cars

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group uses Microsoft cloud platform for connected cars

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is launching a new cloud platform for its cars. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will enable features like connected services and over-the-air updates.
Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.
Cars

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.
Cars

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an exercise in form-over-function design

Porsche expanded its lineup of SUVs with a swoopier evolution of the Cayenne named Cayenne Coupe. Don't let the name fool you: it still has four doors. It stands out with a fastback-like roofline that's lower than the Cayenne's.
Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.
Cars

Tesla revives its referral program with chances to win a Roadster

Tesla has revived its referral program that ended in February because of cost pressures. This time around the perks aren't quite as diverse, though it does offer regular chances to win a Roadster or Model Y.
Cars

Tesla ends scheduled servicing because electric cars need less maintenance

Tesla will longer offer scheduled maintenance plans, switching to an "as needed" model. This reflects the fact that electric cars need less regular maintenance than gasoline or diesel cars.
Cars

The go kart-like Mini Cooper will soon add zero emissions to its resume

Mini is in the final stages of developing an electric version of the Cooper. The 2020 Cooper SE will receive powertrain components from the BMW i3, including a 181-horsepower electric motor and battery technology.
Cars

Formula 1 is putting data in the driver’s seat, and not all racers are happy

After a single weekend of racing, a Formula 1 pit crew typically pulls around 2TB of data from the car. Everything, from tire pressure to the temperature of the track, is recorded and analyzed in the name of boosting performance -- and not…