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Volvo to add in-car sensors to prevent drunk driving

A Volvo Car equipped with self-driving highway software is parked at the autonomous vehicle testing facility AstaZero on the outskirts of Boras, near Gothenburg, Sweden

Swedish automaker Volvo hopes to reinforce its reputation for safety-first driving by installing cameras and sensors in its cars from the early 2020s, monitoring drivers for signs of being drunk or distracted and intervening to prevent accidents.

The safety features, detailed at a briefing in Gothenburg on Wednesday which fleshed out plans outlined earlier this month, mark another step by Volvo towards its pledge to eliminate passenger fatalities by 2020.

Volvo, which in the 1950s was the first carmaker to introduce the three-point seatbelt, had said on March 4 it would introduce a 180 km per hour speed limit on all new vehicles.

Volvo said the cameras and sensors will be installed on all models built on its SPA2 platform for larger cars such as the XC90 SUV, on which its driverless cars will also be built, starting in the early part of the next decade.

Intervention if the driver is found to be drunk, tired or distracted by checking a mobile phone – among the biggest factors in accidents – could involve limiting the car’s speed, alerting the Volvo on Call assistance service, or slowing down and parking the car, it said.

Development of technology that would support such manoeuvres has accelerated in the past year as the industry increasingly focuses on electric and autonomous cars.

Volvo Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson told journalists the technology developments meant carmakers had the responsibility to take on the role of Big Brother to ensure safety on roads.

While the strategy meant Volvo, owned by China’s Geely , might lose some customers keen on high speeds, it also opened opportunities to win parents who wanted to buy the safest car to carry their children, he said.

Volvo also said it would introduce Care Key, allowing a Volvo buyer to set a speed limit for themselves or before lending the car to younger or inexperienced drivers, as standard on all its cars from 2021.

Samuelsson said Volvo was talking to insurers to offer favourable terms to what it termed as “club max 180” customers who were using the safety features.

“If we can encourage and support better behaviour with technology that helps drivers to stay out of trouble, that should logically also have a positive impact on insurance premiums,” Samuelsson said.

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