Volvo’s safety system is hit and miss, writes Paul Gover
THE safety of Volvo’s world-first pedestrian protection system is under fire again after a series of failed tests involving Australian journalists.
The latest mishap follows a crash early in the year when a Volvo crashed into a truck instead of braking automatically to avoid it.
This time the pedestrian detection system failed to trigger as the V60 approached a humanoid dummy at a demonstration at Verona in Italy. The incident also revealed that Volvo engineers discreetly modify the inflatable dummies to trick the car’s radar system into detecting a pedestrian.
More than 650 demonstrations passed without incident during the V60 press preview in Italy, but things went wrong for the Aussies.
Volvo head of active safety Jonas Tisell was upset by the incident.
‘‘I am very sad this has happened. We know the technology works, but I am not happy with the demonstration methods we are using,’’ he says.
Volvo believes the failures, in which the dummy was struck several times, occurred because a small plastic panel covered in aluminium foil that sits in a sandbag at the base of the dummy was not installed correctly.
Volvo also suspects a tractor and trailer directly behind the dummy confused the system.
‘‘The radar goes straight through the air-filled plastic dummy so we put some aluminium in the sandbag at the dummy’s feet so the radar could detect it,’’ Tisell says.
‘‘ The reflector was not facing exactly the right way and instead the system detected the tractor directly in line of sight in the background.’’
Tisell insists there is no need to make any changes to the calibration of the pedestrian warning technology, but Volvo will review its public demonstration procedures for its crash avoidance systems.
‘‘The problem with an inflatable dummy is that it’s plastic and has air inside. The radar needs an echo, it looks for the body mass, and the radar doesn’t bounce off an inflatable dummy. It cannot see it. It sees through it.
‘‘So we added a radar reflector a 10cm piece of plastic covered in aluminium foil in the sand bag at the feet of the dummy.
‘‘The system works on humans. With humans you have a mass that the radar can detect.’’
Tisell insists there is no need to recalibrate of the pedestrian warning technology, but Volvo will review its public demonstration procedures for its crash-avoidance systems.
Bounced: the Volvo’s system uses radar to detect pedestrians, but the signals pass through the test dummies.