Volvo Cars CEO urges governments and auto makers to share safety-related traffic data


Volvo Cars president and chief executive Håkan Samuelsson (below, right) has told a European Commission conference in Brussels that governments and auto makers should join hands in sharing traffic data in order to improve global road safety. If such data is made available, road authorities will be able to use it to better manage road traffic and make their roads safer.

Speaking at the First European Conference on Connected and Automated Driving in the Belgian capital, Samuelsson said, “Sharing anonymized data related to traffic safety in real time can provide a strong boost to overall traffic safety, while safeguarding the privacy of individual road users. At Volvo, we started doing exactly this in Sweden and Norway two years ago, in collaboration with local authorities.

“We think this type of data sharing should be done for free, for the greater good and to the wider benefit of society. It saves lives, time, and taxpayer money. I call on other car makers and governments to work with us on realizing this type of data sharing as widely as possible.”

In 2015, Volvo Cars started a collaboration on sharing safety data with the road administration authorities in Sweden and Norway. All Volvo cars in a certain area share anonymized information about road friction from their anti-skid systems via a cloud based network. The information is transferred in real time to other Volvo drivers, notifying them of icy road conditions. The same information is also shared with the local road administrations so that they quickly can address icy road conditions. The same approach is also used to warn drivers when another vehicle turns on its hazard lights, which may indicate a potential dangerous situation on the road ahead.

These connected car technologies, Slippery Road Alert and Hazard Light Alert, are standard on all SPA-based vehicles on sale in Sweden and Norway, including the Volvo XC90, S90, V90, and the new XC60 models.

Moving on to the subject of automated driving, Samuelsson underlined the need to put safety first when developing a regulatory framework for autonomous cars: “When it comes to autonomous driving, it is important that the user interface is crystal clear about the role of the driver.

“I am concerned about the so-called Level 3 autonomous driving modes. In this mode, the car is in charge of the driving, yet the driver must still be prepared to take over in case of emergency, which could be a matter of a few seconds. Volvo considers this Level 3 driving mode unsafe, and will thus skip this level of autonomous driving.”

Consequently, when Volvo launches its first autonomous cars in 2021, they will be at SAE Level 4, which is defined as the vehicle being driven in automated mode in all but a few environments, such as severe weather, completely unsupervised on applicable roads. This means that when enabled, driver attention is not required and the car will be able to manage emergency situations and bring itself into a safe state without driver interaction. Volvo says it will assume complete liability while the car is in autonomous mode. 

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).