For 40 years, Volvo Car Corporation's Accident Research Team has studied, documented and analyzed more than 40,000 real traffic accidents involving Volvo cars. The knowledge gained has helped develop many of the innovative safety systems Volvo launched over the years.
Every time a serious accident involving a Volvo occurs within a 60-mile radius of Gothenburg, Sweden, the Traffic Accident Research Team is alerted day or night.
At least one person from Volvo Cars goes to the scene. If possible, the police postpone moving the vehicles until Volvo's technicians have arrived. This allows them to conduct a general study, which is documented with measurements and photographs.
The police, witnesses and, where possible, those directly involved are all interviewed. After this, the car is transported to a workshop or to Volvo Cars' Safety Centre for further analysis, while information is gathered including injuries sustained.
In total, information from approximately 40,000 accidents involving Volvos has been gathered since the unit started in 1970, and 2,100 in-depth analyses have been conducted. This forms a valuable database that provides input in the development of new products.
How it all began
The Accident Research Team was born after a project measured the effects of safety belt use in real-world traffic accidents. The one-year project took place in 1966, a few years after the three-point seatbelt was introduced in all Volvo models. The results showed a significant 50% reduction in injuries as a result of the seatbelt. Volvo engineers realized the importance of knowing what happens to the car and its occupants in an accident in order to develop better and safer products in the future. As a result, Volvo Cars' own Accident Research Team was inaugurated in 1970.
Interpreting the sequence of events
The method used today has been refined over the years, but all the information is still obtained from actual road accidents. "We understand our customers don't always do what we expect them to do. They respond differently to various situations. That is why we need to understand the driver's behavior and how it influences the sequence of events in a real-life accident," explained research member John Fredrik Gronvall.
Work in the Accident Research Team follows two main tracks. Firstly, in-depth studies of individual accidents that provide insight into how a car's protective systems behave and how the people involved are injured. Secondly, broad-based statistics that make it possible to chart the likelihood of a certain type of accident occurring.
Ten years in the crash-test lab
The Accident Research Team shares its anniversary with the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, which is celebrating ten years of operation this year.
On March 29, 2000, Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf opened the centre, which is still one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the world.
Since its establishment, every new Volvo has undergone 100-150 different crash tests in the lab to test a variety of scenarios. Even before the car exists in its physical form, it will have been tested thousands of times as a prototype using virtual simulators. About 3000 physical crash tests have been carried out in the lab since its inauguration in 2000. All this work aims at ensuring the vehicle's safety systems interact as intended and provide effective protection for all the car's occupants, irrespective of their size, speed and in various scenarios. The tests supplement the accident research carried out in the field by the Accident Research Team.