USA Today featured a story yesterday about Volvo's plans to introduce a car called the S60 (and I believe the XC60) into the US soon that will have two safety features, one called "Full Auto Brake" and the other "Pedestrian Detection."
"... warns the driver if a collision is imminent, and if the driver does not respond to the warning the vehicle's full braking power will be activated to avoid an accident."
The Pedestrian Detection feature is linked into the Full Auto Brake system. If the car's sensor system detects a pedestrian who steps into the path of the car, and the driver doesn't respond, the Full Auto Brake feature will engage to reduce the car's speed.
According to the USA Today story,
"Cars will come a full stop at speeds less than about 15 miles an hour if their radar systems detect they are about to strike a car or a person. If the car is going faster, the car will try to come as close to a full stop as possible."
Volvo safety engineers believe they can reduce the impact force of a collision by 75% with these features. Also, the number of rear-end collisions involving the S60 should be cut down.
Statistics, the story says, show that in 50% of the cases of rear-end collisions, drivers never hit their brakes. (This article from ScienceDaily helps explains why, as well as says that there were 1.8 million rear-end collisions in the US in 2006, or 29% of all injury crashes here).
There are many brake assist systems out there (see a short list here), but from what this USA Today story implies, this is the first where the car will act completely independent of the driver.
The story cites Ford's safety chief as saying Ford found drivers didn't want their car to have full control over braking.
Volvo has set a highly aggressive goal of achieving zero deaths and injuries in its cars by 2020, and obviously believes that autonomous control is the only means to help in achieving that.
This difference in philosophy reminds me of the Airbus versus Boeing arguments involving who ultimately controls the airplane: the flight control system or the pilot.
What do you think? Would you buy a car that had these safety features?
And are US drivers different in their attitude about autonomous vehicle control versus European drivers or those elsewhere in the world?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.