Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks collaborate to improve road safety by sharing live traffic data

(Photo: Volvo Cars)

Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks, the automobile mainstays from Sweden announced yesterday that some of their vehicle models will now have the ability to share real-time traffic information between themselves to help drivers on the road. This would be done through the companies’ cloud-based connected safety technology, which connects the vehicles and warns drivers on approaching road hazards.

The data sharing between Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks is a significant step as both are independent companies, albeit sharing the same signia. This is the first time Volvo Cars is venturing out with sharing data of its vehicles with another organization, and it comes at a time when the rules of data privacy are tightening up in Europe, in light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that would be enforced later this month. Data from the vehicles are anonymized and validated before being shared, protecting the privacy of the drivers while providing critical information for driving safety.

“Sharing real-time safety data based on our connected safety technology can help avoid accidents,” said Malin Ekholm, vice president of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, in a statement. “The more vehicles we have sharing safety data in real time, the safer our roads become. We look forward to establishing further collaborations with other partners who share our commitment to traffic safety.”

Volvo Cars’ Hazard Light Alert technology was unveiled in Sweden and Norway in 2016, with it being placed on all 90 and 60 series cars and the XC40 compact SUV. The Volvo Trucks that will be included in this data-collaboration network are the FH, FH16, FM, and FMX. When a driver switches on the hazard lights, an alert reaches the Volvo cloud which relays the information to all Volvo cars in the vicinity to help in navigating potential blind spots and sharp turns on hill slopes.

“Connected safety allows Volvo drivers to virtually ‘see around the corner’ and avoid a critical situation or accident before it happens,” said Ekholm. “The ability to see further ahead and avoid hazards is something we want to share with as many drivers as possible.”

Though this is a feature that has perennially existed on Sat Nav systems like TomTom, this is a case where OEM companies are looking further into connecting their vehicles for driver safety – a practice that is not quite mainstream yet. Then again to be successful, such an exercise would require a critical mass of Volvo vehicles on the road to warn drivers in the event of a hazard.

Volvo is releasing the technology only in Sweden and Norway, the countries where the company has a significant market presence. In Sweden, 21.5% of all the cars on its roads are Volvo giving it a good chance at gaining critical mass for succeeding with the hazard information relaying.

Nonetheless, it needs to be seen on how effective the system is. As understood from the video that Volvo put up on its press release, once a driver switches on the hazard light, a warning signal pops up on the dashboards of vehicles in the area, with a sign that incidentally, is not hazard-specific.

This means that the driver has no way of identifying the type of hazard that he needs to look out for, making the warning not as practical as it sounds. Ekholm had mentioned about the information enabling people to “act” rather than “react” on the road, but it is inconclusive as to how drivers can act on shrouded information, other than anticipating a hazard. But regardless of that, this is a positive step forward, and it can be expected that once the data starts flowing in, Volvo would look to provide better data-driven insights into improving safety on the road.

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Vishnu Rajamanickam, Staff Writer

Vishnu writes editorial commentary on cutting-edge technology within the freight industry, profiles startups, and brings in perspective from industry frontrunners and thought leaders in the freight space. In his spare time, he writes neo-noir poetry, blogs about travel & living, and loves to debate about international politics. He hopes to settle down in a village and grow his own food at some point in time. But for now, he is happy to live with his wife in the middle of a German metropolitan.