Volvo will limit top speed of its cars to reach safety target

Volvo said on Monday it will limit the top speed on all its new cars to 180 kph (112 mph) starting in 2020, which is the same year the Swedish automaker wants there to be zero people killed or seriously injured in any of its new models.

The change will be implemented globally starting in the second quarter of next year on vehicles planned for the 2021 model year.

Volvo is taking the bold step because its researchers have identified speed as a prominent gap it needs to close to reach its safety target.

“We need to talk about this problem,” Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Automotive News Europe, referring to the areas that remain to be solved to end serious injuries and fatalities in its vehicles. Although speed limits exist in most countries he said that people are still exceeding those limits by a wide margin. Volvo believes that controlling the speed in its models is worth it even if it can save just one life.

Excluding specially tuned cars such as the Polestar Engineered variant of the S60 sedan, no Volvo vehicles currently offer a top speed that exceeds 250 kph.

Samuelsson said that he expects pushback from the move, but Volvo received similar criticism that it was taking away a driver’s freedom when it added seat belts to its cars 60 years ago.

“If someone is going to show leadership in safety it needs to be Volvo,” he said.

Samuelsson added that he believes that the move will not turn away Volvo’s core customers because he says the brand already “attracts more responsible drivers” who are typically favor safety over extreme performance and horsepower.

Traffic accident data from NHTSA shows that 25 percent of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2017 were caused by speeding. Volvo safety experts say that many people do not recognize the danger of speeding or realize that once the car reaches certain speeds its in-car safety technology will not prevent severe injuries and fatalities in the event of a crash.

“As humans, we all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much,” Volvo senior safety specialist Jan Ivarsson said in a release. “People often drive too fast in a given traffic situation and have poor speed adaption in relation to that traffic situation and their own capabilities as a driver. We need to support better behavior and help people realize and understand that speeding is dangerous.”

It will not be possible to turn off the limited speed, a company spokeswomen said.

Taking things a step further, Volvo is also investigating how a combination of speed control and geofencing technology could automatically limit speeds around schools and hospitals in future. The aim is to reduce speeding while also addressing the two other safety gaps after speeding – intoxication and driver distraction.

Said Samuelsson: “We need to talk about how far we as carmarkers can go to help save lives.” He wants those discussions to determine whether automakers have an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver’s behavior. He said Volvo does not have a firm answer to this question.

With that in mind, Volvo will present ideas to tackle the problem areas of intoxication and driver distraction at a special safety event in Gothenburg, Sweden, on March 20.

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