Jeremy Clarkson has described them as walnut-faced communists with gnarled buttocks and heads full of bile, but Volvo has struck a more conciliatory tone by launching a system aimed at reducing collisions between cyclists and cars.
Later this spring models including the V40, S60 and XC60 will be available with cyclist detection, a system which has the potential to halve the number of fatal bicycle crashes. It is claimed to be the first time that this technology has been available in a production car.
Objects in front of the car are monitored and their proximity calculated by a radar in the vehicle’s grille. A high-definition camera linked to software that can identify riders and track their direction of movement is located behind the car’s rear view mirror.
If it detects that a cyclist is on a collision course – one who has swerved into the path of the car, for example – it sounds an alarm and activates red lights on the dashboard. If the driver doesn’t react or there’s no time to wait for them to do so, the car will automatically apply full braking.
At speeds of up to 9mph the car is able to avoid hitting another object. But for cyclists who like the idea of bringing traffic to a halt behind them, beware: at 10mph or above the automatic braking system can only lower the closing speed to reduce the chances of serious injury and cannot avoid a collision. It does not operate at speeds of 50mph and above.
The system, demonstrated in the video below, is based on Volvo’s pedestrian detection technology, which works in the same way using radar and a camera. It has effectively now been taught to recognise cyclists and their movement.
The technology has the potential to halve the number of cyclists killed on the roads if adopted by other manufacturers, says Volvo. It points to accident data showing that around 50% of cyclists killed in European traffic have collided with a car.
It is the latest stage in the company’s attempt to build a crash-proof car. By 2020 the company says it will have developed a vehicle in which nobody will be killed or seriously injured.
The new pedestrian and cyclist detection system will be available as an option on most of Volvo’s range from this May, probably as part of an option pack costing around £1,800.
The first evidence of a thaw in relations between those on four and two wheels will be if, with the exception of one tousle-haired TV presenter, drivers actually choose to have it fitted.
Published on March 6, 2013