Volvo expands its safety net
Volvo V40: Radar helps to avoid those dreaded carpark dents when reversing. Picture: Henrik Ottosson

Volvo is on a quest to provide cars that cannot kill or even crash. The V40, due early next year from about $40,000, is designed to be the safety king's safest car yet.

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Yet when I think of Volvo's goals of zero crashes, zero deaths, the "zero" word has me recalling a chilling moment in a Volvo S80.

I had stopped at a T-junction with the intention of turning right. Traffic was clear both ways, except for a rubbish truck to my left. But it was edging up the hill away from me, doing its bin-slinging thing.

So I dismissed it from my mind.

I was about to casually potter away from the Stop sign when the 20-tonne monster flashed in front of me in reverse. The driver had finished the bins and now wanted to turn into the street I was in.

No doubt this was his weekly manoeuvre and done at hurtling speed to boot.

Volvo V40: Automated parallel parking. Supplied picture
When I got home, still pale, I opened the boot to take out the gas bottle I had bought and filled that morning. Whoa, I was overcome by the odour of a bootful of gas, the bottle being faulty.

So, even had I survived a rubbish-truck impact, an explosive fireball would surely have followed. Heaven knows what crash investigators would have made of the scorched crater, not to mention the shrapnel, rubbish and motoring writer strewn over the suburb.

The crash-safety structure of a Volvo is the next safest thing to using a military tank as your mode of transport.

But I can't see how the S80 could have coped with such crazy circumstances - a truck-driving loosehead, bootful of explosive gas and me in la-la land.

So to the V40, a five-door hatch about the size of a Ford Focus or Toyota Corolla.

It's one bright cookie. Even if the driver is in la-la land, the V40 can avoid hitting other vehicles and iPhone-engrossed pedestrians. It is even able to decipher road signs.

Sounds sci-fi but it's all real.

Unlike most of us, the V40 doesn't suffer from moodiness or fatigue but it can tell when you're not quite in the right state for safe driving.

If you wander from your lane, the attentive vehicle will straighten the steering wheel for you. If your driving's still errant, the steering wheel will shudder to simulate the effect of tyres hitting rumble strips.

High-tech: Volvo V40. Supplied picture
Should the car strike a wayward walker, it will be with padded gloves - via the world's first pedestrian airbag.

When you arrive at your destination, the press of a button will ensure your parallel parking manoeuvre is perfect every time.

And how about this.

You alight from the supermarket, frazzled and arms full. It's hailing and you haven't the foggiest where your car is.

Scramble for your phone and the smarty-pants V40's smartphone app will point you in the right direction.

The password-protected phone app, which can be accessed by up to five people, also allows users to monitor the car even while off sipping a latte somewhere. They can check fuel levels, service issues, be alerted to a break-in and unlock the doors if the key is lost.

But here's my favourite - extra eyes when leaving the dreaded supermarket carpark. While you're reversing, sensors will spot cars and shopping trolleys up to 30m away.

Though rampaging rubbish trucks might still test the Volvo V40's crashworthiness, this is a car that's brighter than the average driver.

The only question is whether such a car excuses driver inattention too much. Getting out of la-la land is the safest move a driver can make.


Pedestrian Avoidance
A camera scans the road ahead for pedestrians and the system will issue alerts then apply the brakes if needed.

Soft Landing
Active from 20 to 50km/h, sensors in the bumper detect contact with a pedestrian. Within 300 milliseconds, the bonnet lifts 10cm, a crumple zone forms and a U-shaped airbag inflates.

Rear-end Avoidance
Up to 50kmh, the City Safety system can detect a potential rear-ender, warn the driver and apply the brakes.

Drowsiness Detector
Active from 65 to 200km/h, the system's camera identifies lane drifting. Responses include vibration of the steering wheel to rouse the driver.

Rear Vision
Radar sensors alert you to cars and trolleys as you back out of carparks.

Park Assist
Makes parallel parking easy, automatically steering into the space.

The West Australian

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