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2012 Geneva Motor Show: New Volvo V40 showcases innovative safety systems

Consumer Reports News: March 06, 2012 05:08 PM

Volvo unveiled the new V40 small wagon at the Geneva Motor Show today. And while it’s not yet ready for the U.S. market, the V40 showcases a number of safety advances that are worth noting. To assist those not in the car, for example, Volvo is revealing the first pedestrian air bag, as well as a pedestrian detection system with full braking ability. Other technologies include an aid to help drivers stay in their lane using haptic auto steering, automatic road sign information, active high beam lights, and a cross-traffic alert system for the rear of the car.

The pedestrian air bag would help reduce injuries to pedestrians should they be hit by the vehicle. The system uses a sensor in the front bumper to determine the physical contact between the car and a person. The windshield end of the hood would then be released and elevated by the inflating air bag. The deployed air bag covers the area under the raised hood, part of the windshield, and the lower area of the front pillars, thereby absorbing some impact forces. Still, it looks to be anything but a cushy landing.

2013-Volvo-V40-studio-r.jpgTo further protect pedestrians, detection technology uses radar and cameras to determine if someone steps out in front of the car. If the driver does not respond in time, the car will automatically activate the brakes.

Road sign information helps the driver by displaying signs in the instrument display through the use of a camera that can detect speed limit signs. This information can be matched with speed alert to warn the driver, via the speedometer, if they are going over the speed limit. (Of course, many dashtop GPS navigators provide speed limit warnings, and do so without needing line-of-sight to the signs. Think big rigs...)

To help drivers navigate out of a parking space, Volvo has added an alert that uses the radar sensors at the rear end of the car to warn the driver of traffic coming in from the sides. This audible alert is helpful in tight and crowded parking areas where obstructions, such as barriers or other cars, may impede visibility.

For driving in the dark, the V40 can detect other vehicles and their lights to automatically switch between high and low beam when needed by using a forward camera. It also has lane-departure warning, another feature found on some current upscale cars, that uses cameras to monitor proximity to lane markings and prompt a correction when necessary.

While some of these functions are available on current models, the combination of these systems promises to help keep Volvo’s safety reputation. Of course, such innovation and hardware would come at a price. And favor drivers who keep their cars clean.

We hope to test out these intriguing technologies if they make it to the U.S. market.
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Liza Barth

   

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