Not their finest hour: Volvo's tech failure

Celebrating the greatest cock-ups in automotive history. Today we look at Volvo
By Sony Thomas, Deputy Editor
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April 16, 2017
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Volvo is a name as synonymous with safety like no other brand in the motoring world. This is a reputation the Swedish automaker has built over the years based on innovations including the three-point seat belt that revolutionised automobile safety.

Even today, the carmaker incorporates advanced radar-and sensor-based lane-keeping and crash avoidance features into its cars. While these technologies have now been streamlined to work near well flawlessly, things were different in the earlier years, with even Volvo facing a couple of embarrassing failures.

Back in 2010, while demonstrating its City Safety low speed crash avoidance technology in a test in Sweden, the test car failed to apply the brakes automatically and crashed into the back of a truck.

An obviously embarrassed Volvo blamed the mishap on a flat battery leading to the system being temporarily disabled. It said the glitch had since been fixed, however, an even bigger loss of face was in store just a few months down the line.

While demonstrating its pedestrian crash avoidance software to a bunch of journalists in Italy, the test car, a V60 estate, failed to sense the carmaker’s special dummy and mowed it down.This happened three times in a total of 12 demo runs — with one of them hitting the dummy with such force it would have caused significant injuries if it were an actual human being.

This was highly humiliating as the system was touted to be able to automatically apply the brakes and mitigate injuries to pedestrians. The blame this time fell on a dummy that was not “set up properly.”

Well, Volvo seemed to have forgotten that in the real world, pedestrians are not “set up.”

While such tech failures are few and far between nowadays, these incidents should serve as a reminder that there’s nothing as effective and foolproof as the driver keeping an eye on the road and being in full control of the vehicle at all times.

 

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