Sweden is a leading nation in road safety and this is reflected in, for example, the zero vision initiative with the long-term ambition of no severe injuries or fatalities resulting from road traffic accidents in Sweden. Volvo Cars, with a list of innovations including the three-point seat belt, the first prototype for a rear-facing child car seat and side impact protection, has a history of profiling itself as a world leader in road safety.
And safety is where the conversation begins when we meet Christian U Larsson, Business Leader Active Safety & Autonomous Drive, at ÅF Consult's offices in Lindholmen. Does he see ties to past efforts? Do we benefit from having been at the forefront of safety in the past?
"Definitely, much of the development takes place incrementally, with the level of complexity increasing gradually. We build the more advanced systems of tomorrow based on the experience accumulated from previous projects. Domain knowledge and expertise acquired in earlier system development work are prerequisites for understanding the challenges faced when building even more complex and safer systems, such as self-driving cars. In terms of not only design, but also of verification, a non-negotiable phase – we not only need to design the gadgets and functions, we must also be able to sign off on them at the end. If you have a couple of projects under your belt and it's become instinctive, you have a better grasp on such matters. As a high jumper, you have to train extensively before you can jump really high, and the same applies here."
So says Christian and mentions systems such as FCW (Forward Collision Warning), which warns the driver if they're on a collision course with an object in front of the car, CMbB (Collision Mitigation by Braking), which applies some braking to reduce the severity of the accident, and AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking), which brakes more heavily to reduce speed and in some cases completely avoids impact.
"When self-driving cars are in 'self-driving mode', the car manufacturer is liable, not the driver. The car manufacturer must then ensure that the car operates safely and doesn't collide with anything. The car needs to 'see', 'evaluate' and 'act' based on the objects in its immediate vicinity under defined conditions. Car manufacturers have gained extremely valuable experience from earlier developments in the field of ADAS."
In addition to challenges in traditional development, the automotive industry is also facing disruptive challenges within mobility development, Christian explains. The 'traditional' development arena is being challenged by the need for increasingly more customer functionality to be developed and tested in the same or less time.
"The vehicle ownership model is also being challenged by demands for new mobility solutions and the automotive industry is evolving in a direction where new skills and partnerships are needed to keep pace with development. The future will see even greater complexity with business models and system solutions vastly different to those of today."