Volvo proudly claims the XC90 is one of the safest SUVs on the planet. And who are we to argue? We’ve already seen how well it performs in traditional crash tests, but the Swedish manufacturer’s dedication to safety goes to the next level.
As part of its aim to have zero fatalities in its cars by 2020, Volvo has analysed crash data to determine the most common ‘real world’ crashes, which tend to be more complicated than the simple tests most cars undertake, for example smashing head-on into a concrete wall.
With this in mind, Volvo has developed three new tests: ‘Ditch,’ ‘Airborne’ and ‘Rough Terrain.’ In the test above, the car runs down into a ditch, is launched into the air and crashes into a bank; the occupants are subjected to varying vertical loads, and get thrown around in many different directions. These kinds of crashes can cause lower spinal injuries.
To combat these injuries, Volvo has analysed the forces subjected to the vehicle so its sensors know when the car is about to run off the road. The car then prepares the occupants for the most likely injuries they could face. First of all, the seat belts tighten to pull the occupant upright into the most ideal position for impact. The next stage softens the vertical load placed on the driver - this is what causes spinal injuries - and to do that Volvo has essentially built crumple zones into the seat; it deforms on landing and soaks up the energy, reducing forces on the occupant by up to a third.
The subject of safety might be a bit boring, but it’s great to see a manufacturer pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved, and not just working on the bare minimum needed to look good in official tests.