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Picture this: Cameras watch road in Volvo prototype

Volvo's Safety Concept Car is the result of $10 million worth of research geared toward making driving safer.
Volvo's Safety Concept Car is the result of $10 million worth of research geared toward making driving safer.  


From Ann Kellan
CNN SciTech

(CNN) -- Most, if not all, car manufacturers create concept cars -- models you can't find in a showroom -- to help develop technologies for future cars.

Volvo's latest, the Safety Concept Car, is a high-tech prototype geared toward reducing accidents and making driving more comfortable and secure.

"Ten million dollars of research went into this," says Stephen Rouhana, a technical specialist with Ford Motor Co., Volvo's parent company. "This baby is loaded with features."

Many of those features tackle one of the trickiest traffic problems: blind spots.

Volvo installed a see-through pillar where the windshield meets the door frame, and put cameras and sensors in the side mirrors to alert the driver to nearby vehicles.

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A $10 million Volvo concept car, loaded with new safety features, is touring the country. CNN's Ann Kellan reports (June 20)

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Click here to see details of the Volvo safety features 
 

"You can tell when there's a car coming up on you when you're changing lanes," says Rouhana.

Other cameras in the car show the driver what's behind the vehicle, to prevent accidentally running over a child or pet. There's even an infrared camera that projects night vision images onto a screen above the instrument panel.

"At night," explains Rouhana, "you would see people or animals kind of lighting up on that screen so you know that there is something ahead and to be careful."

But couldn't all those extra images create distractions?

"We want to be able to put people in a car and see what kinds of situations they are in, where they could become distracted by too much technology," says Volvo product communications manager Daniel Johnston, "and then we start looking at that. Is there a benefit to that, or is it a distraction and then take it out."

The Volvo prototype also has sensors that measure the location of the driver's eyes, then adjust the seat, pedals, console and steering wheel accordingly.

The seat, pedals, steering wheel and console all adjust to the position of the driver's eye.
The seat, pedals, steering wheel and console all adjust to the position of the driver's eye.  

The information is stored and transmitted through an ultra high-tech remote control unit known as the VPC -- the Volvo Personal Communicator. The VPC keeps track of seat settings, and can even store personal medical information in case of an accident. A fingerprint lock keeps the data -- and the car -- safe from unauthorized users.

Volvo isn't the only carmaker putting high-tech gadgetry into its vehicles. Lexus recently designed a futuristic car for the movie "Minority Report" that also features cameras to see out the back and a retinal-scan entry system.

Such fancy features may get your motor running, but don't go rushing out to the dealership just yet. Cars like these won't be on the road anytime soon. But some of the Volvo safety features will be available in cars over the next five years.



 
 
 
 



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