The big safety news in the new Volvo XC60 is City Safety – a unique safety feature that can help the driver avoid or reduce the damage of low-speed impacts that are common in city traffic and bumper-to-bumper traffic. If the car is about to strike the vehicle in front and the driver does not react, the car automatically applies the brakes.
What! Why do a I need another electronic nanny and do I really want something that applies the brakes for me?
Please keep in mind that safety systems are designed to help the driver avoid or prevent accidents. They are not substitutes for good driver awareness, nor should they be relied upon to prevent accidents. How often are drivers distracted for one reason or another – searching for a good radio station, talking on their cell phones, eating or drinking behind the wheel, or acting as a referee when they should be focused on the road ahead of them. Drivers are easily distracted and they sometimes need a reminder to refocus their attention back on the road.
Volvo conducted several surveys and found that up to 75% of accidents occur at low speeds. Being involved in a low speed accident isn’t life threatening, its more of a PIA. Think of the time involved with swapping insurance information with the other party (provided they have insurance), taking time out of your day to get auto body estimates, trying to get your insurance adjuster on the phone, and the time your car is out of service while getting its little fender-bender straightened. Now the value of the City Safety system becomes apparent. Volvo is actually working with insurance companies so that the XC60, and future cars outfitted with the City Safety feature, qualify for a discount.
Holly and I demo’d the City Safety feature at one of the northern California tour stops this past week. Holy-moly! It works. For the test, pylons were setup at the end of a short straightaway. I accelerated the XC60 between 15 and 20 mph and lifted my foot off of the accelerator. As the car got close to the pylons and determined that I wasn’t doing anything to slow down, stop or avoid the pylons, City Safety scolded me for texting on my phone and applied the brakes to stop the vehicle before hitting the pylons. Cool stuff, Maynard. It was so much fun, Holly and I repeated the test several times noting the reaction time of the City Safety system, the force at which the brakes are applied, and the distance the XC60 stops in front of the pylons dependent upon the speed we were traveling.
I spoke with a few people who also participated in the City Safety demonstration. Reactions were highly enthusiastic. From “Incredible!” to “Every car should have it.” One person, in addition to me, wanted to take the XC60 into real traffic and do a real world test. Unfortunately, the folks from Volvo weren’t hip with the idea.
How it works
The City Safety system is active between 2 to 19 mph and monitors the area 18 feet directly in front of the vehicle using an infrared laser sensor located in the housing near the rear view mirror. If the driver is distracted by one of hundreds of reasons and the car is not detecting any input from the driver, the City Safety system assists the driver by applying the brakes if it determines that a collision is eminent. The system is designed to detect objects similar in size and shape to another car. So, don’t expect it to react to pedestrians and cyclists.
Between 2 – 9 mph City Safety helps prevent accidents by applying the brakes and stopping the vehicle if you are approaching a vehicle too closely and a collision is eminent. At speeds between 10 – 19 mph City Safety may help reduce the amount of damage if an accident does occur.
Don’t feel that the City Safety feature is big brother and is watching over you without your consent. The City Safety feature is only active between 2 – 19 mph and defeatable several ways. The feature can be turned off manually with a switch on the turn signal stalk or through the information system menu. Tapping or feathering the brakes indicates that the driver is active and paying attention to traffic around him or her. Swerving at the last second if approaching a stationary or slow moving object too closely defeats the system and it won’t apply the brakes either. The suite of safety systems in the XC60 (and other Volvo models) are designed to help the driver avoid or prevent accidents. They are not meant to take control of the car and chauffeur you to the tennis club. Or work. Or a night at the opera.
Coming to a town near you
Volvo is launching their new luxury crossover vehicle, the XC60, with two concurrent nationwide tours – “From Sweden with Löv Experiential Tour.” The two tours will canvas the southern and western U.S. simultaneously, stopping in more than 85 cities. The tour stops will allow customers a hands-on experience of the City Safety system and the new XC60 – what Volvo calls its safest car ever made.