January 9, 2001

Volvo Safety Concept Car: The eyes have it!

Volvo Safety Concept Car
Click for larger image

The Volvo Safety Concept Car, a vehicle designed to optimize
every driver’s vision and to explore other new concepts in active safety,
made its world debut at the North American International Auto Show here today.

The vehicle, known by its initials – SCC, is built around the premise of
placing the driver’s eyes at the optimum position for outward visibility
while removing many of the traditional obstructions to a clear view of the

Unlike other safety technology demonstrations, SCC concentrates on active
safety and the role of the driver in preventing dangerous collisions. A
collaborative project between Volvo Car Corporation and the Ford Motor
Company, SCC combines traditional engineering with advanced electronics to
always place the driver at the optimum position in the car for best
visibility, regardless of the driver’s size. Technical features include a
video sensor that detects the driver’s eyes, a computer that controls a
motorized seat, and adjustable pedals and steering column.

A video camera located in the trim above the windshield scans the driver
and locates the face, eyes and eye centres in a three-step process. The
information is transmitted to a computer which determines how much to raise
or lower the seat to place the driver’s eyes at the optimum position for
outward visibility. The computer then adjusts the brake and accelerator
pedals, steering column and floor to match the driver’s seat height and
create a driving environment tailored to the individual behind the wheel.

The driver has the ability to fine tune the pedal and wheel positions for
comfort, and controls are located in positions that are accessible to all

Two other key issues in outward visibility – the placement and design of
the roof pillars – are also addressed in the Volvo SCC.

The ‘A’ and ‘B’ roof pillars of some cars can obstruct the outward view for
many drivers. In the Volvo SCC, the ‘A’ or front roof pillars are made
from a metal framework structure combined with plexiglass that allows the
driver to see through them to the road ahead. The second or ‘B’ pillars
curve inward and follow the shape of the seat frame to provide free
visibility to the side.

“Drivers receive more than 90 per cent of the most critical information
from outside the vehicle. If we can enhance the quality of this visual
information, we can give drivers a better chance of avoiding collisions,”
says Hans Gustavsson, head of Research, Product Development and Purchasing
at Volvo Car Corporation. “This is a top priority area in the Volvo SCC.”

The SCC also displays two kinds of four-point seatbelts: a “CrissCross” or
X-belt, and the “Centre Buckle Belt” or V4. The CrissCross Belt is a
conventional three-point belt supplemented with an extended diagonal chest
belt from the shoulder to the hip. The Centre Buckle design is similar to
the type of belt used in rally and race cars. Both designs are integrated
into the seat frame. The company will evaluate which of the two designs is
most comfortable and most user-friendly at the Detroit show.

Volvo Safety Car Concept
Click for larger image

Other features:

  • A radar unit measures the distance to cars following or beside the SCC
    and warns the driver of “blind spots.” Rearward-facing cameras show what
    is in the blind area.

  • An infrared light enhancer boosts nighttime vision beyond the reach of
    the headlights.

  • Headlight beams turn in the direction of the car’s steering.
  • A concealed external airbag, located at the cowl, inflates to give
    pedestrians and cyclists improved protection in case of a collision.

  • A remote control unit called the Volvo Personal Communicator includes a
    fingerprint sensor to identify users. Once identified, approved users can
    open and start the car without a key. The car adjusts to the user’s
    personal settings for seat, pedals, etc. automatically, based on the user’s

  • Heartbeat sensors register human or pet heartbeats when the car is
    parked, and can alert the owner if a child or animal is left behind, or in
    the case where someone breaks into the car and hides inside it. The
    information can be transferred to the driver via mobile phone.

The Volvo Safety Concept Car was designed at the Volvo Monitoring and
Concept Center in California.

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