The name Volvo has been synonymous with passenger safety since the automaker pioneered the three-point seatbelt over 50 years ago. Recently, however, the automaker has turned its attention toward protecting people who aren’t even in its cars.
Several Volvos are now available in the United States with camera and laser-based systems that monitor the road ahead and can autonomously brake the vehicle if a slowing car, passing motorcycle or a person is detected and a crash is deemed imminent.
Now, even if all else fails, Volvo has come up with a feature to soften the blow: A pedestrian airbag.
Triggered by a frontal impact, the U-shaped device deploys from below the hood at the base of the windshield and covers the roof pillars and most of the glass, while leaving a small opening for the driver to see through. The raised hood further protects the struck person by increasing the distance from the relatively flexible surface to the hard engine underneath.
The technology stems from an effort to better meet the pedestrian safety standards now in place in Europe and Japan and it will debut on the all new V40 compact car this year.
Unfortunately for Americans literally caught in the crosswalk, and who account for 12 percent of automotive fatalities each year, sales of the V40 are being discontinued in the United States and there are currently no plans to bring the technology here, but it has not been ruled out for future models.
In any event, the new V40 looks a lot better than one of the first pedestrian-friendly cars, the 1957 Aurora, which was designed and built by a Catholic priest in Connecticut, and featured a cow-catcher style foam-filled bumper, along with a host of safety features that included a built-in roll cage and a windshield that bulged away from the front seat passengers to help avoid head impacts. Only one was ever produced, and it is considered by many to be the ugliest car of all time.