The rise of smartphones and touchscreens inside cars has sparked a growing debate around the dangers of distraction behind the wheel. According to Volvo Cars’ safety experts, distraction is a fact of life, and technology should be used to support people in their daily commute.
The company says its own safety research and behavioral science work suggests that when used correctly, modern technology inside the car can actively reduce distraction, boost road safety and help people to be better and more focused drivers.
“It is easy to think that phones and screens are the only scourge of the modern driver, but life as a whole is distracting,” said Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. “We know people do not get distracted on purpose, but it happens. You could be late for daycare and somewhat stressed. Or you get behind the wheel after a bad day at work. All this affects you as a driver.”
“The reality is that people want to engage with friends, family, work and entertainment, and everyone responds differently to distraction,” continued Ekholm. “So we want to meet our customers where they are, not where we want them to be. That is why our focus is on using technology in the right way, so we can use it to help you stay safe behind the wheel.”
Volvo claims that it actively uses technology to combat the dangers of distraction. For example, in the company’s XC40 Recharge, an advanced voice control on the Android-powered infotainment system allows drivers to control the temperature, set a destination, and play their favorite music and podcasts, all while keeping their hands on the wheel.
Volvo says it believes distraction should also be addressed via in-car cameras and other sensors that monitor the driver. With such technologies, if a clearly distracted (or intoxicated) driver does not respond to warning signals and risks a serious, potentially lethal accident, the car could intervene.
That intervention could involve limiting the car’s speed, alerting an on-call assistance service and, as a last resort, actively slowing down and safely parking the car. The company says it plans to start introducing these cameras on the next generation of its scalable SPA2 vehicle platform.