Clueless Objects Ahead
The Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake system is the latest evolution of Volvo's existing Collision Warning with Auto Brake technology, which itself is related to the City Safety package. All of which means that the S60 does its darnedest to avoid hitting things and people regardless of how distracted the driver may be.
Pedestrian Detection consists of a newly developed radar unit integrated into the S60's grille, a camera mounted in front of the inside rearview mirror, and a central control unit. The radar detects any object in front of the car and measures the distance to it while the camera determines what type of object it is. The system can avoid a collision with a pedestrian at speeds up to 22 mph if the driver does not react in time. At higher speeds, the focus is on reducing the car's speed as much as possible prior to impact in order to lessen its severity. The radar's field of view is about 60 degrees, but the camera's field of view is only about 45 degrees, "so the limiting factor is the camera," explains Tomas Andersson, senior manager for Volvo's active safety electronics. Pedestrian Detection operates at up to 80 kph (50 mph) but does not work at night or in other low-light conditions.
In a test that Volvo set up for us in Portugal, we drove a 2011 S60 at about 15 to 20 mph toward a stationary dummy to mimic low-speed driving in a crowded urban area. As we got closer to the dummy, the S60 sounded an urgent tone and warning lights in the instrument cluster flashed at us. Just as it seemed that the dummy's days were over, the car took the reins from us and slammed on the brakes. The S60 stopped in its tracks, and the dummy remained upright and unharmed.
Beyond and Back; Saab's Near-Death Experience
During the nearly two decades that General Motors controlled Saab, it seemed not to know quite what to do with the brand. But even as Saab bled red ink, GM executives always denied any plans to off-load it. As late as the summer of 2008, GM CEO Rick "better-days-are-just-around-the-corner" Wagoner reiterated GM's commitment to Saab. But that fall brought the Wall Street crisis, and GM's financial day of reckoning suddenly was not someday but right now. GM could no longer afford to nurse its Swedish patient back to health; Saab would have to find its own road.