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Volvo Plans In-Car Sensors to Detect Drunk Driving

Another step in Volvo's plan to eliminate fatalities in its vehicles by 2020, the cameras and sensors will detect drunkenness, fatigue, or distraction.

Swedish automaker Volvo hopes to reinforce its reputation for safety by installing cameras and sensors in its cars that will monitor drivers for signs of being drunk or distracted, and then signal the vehicle to intervene to prevent accidents. The safety features were detailed at a briefing in Gothenburg on Wednesday and mark another step by Volvo toward its pledge to eliminate passenger fatalities by 2020.

Volvo, which in the 1950s was the first carmaker to introduce the three-point seatbelt, had previously said earlier this month it would introduce a 112-mph (180-kph) speed limit on all its new vehicles. As for the new system, the cameras and sensors will be installed on all models built on Volvo’s SPA2 platform for larger cars. The architecture currently is used for vehicles such as the XC90, S60, and V90, and the company plans to deploy it underneath its driverless cars starting in the early part of the next decade.

The company states that intervening steps taken by the vehicle if the driver is found to be drunk, tired, or distracted by checking a mobile phone—among the largest factors in accidents—could involve limiting the car’s speed, alerting the Volvo On Call assistance service, or slowing down and parking the car. Development of technology that would support such maneuvers has accelerated in the past year as the industry increasingly focuses on electric and autonomous cars.

Volvo Chief Executive Håkan Samuelsson told journalists the technology developments meant carmakers had the responsibility to take on the role of ensuring safety on roads. While the speed-limiter strategy means Volvo, owned by China’s Geely, might lose some customers keen on high speeds, it also opens opportunities to win parents who want to buy the safest car to carry their children, he said. Volvo’s performance electric-vehicle brand Polestar says it will not have speed limiters.

Volvo also announced Care Key, which will allowing owners to set a speed limit for themselves or before lending the car to younger or inexperienced drivers, will be standard on all its cars from 2021. Samuelsson said Volvo was talking to insurers to offer favorable terms to what it termed as “club max 180” customers who were using the safety features. “If we can encourage and support better behavior with technology that helps drivers to stay out of trouble, that should logically also have a positive impact on insurance premiums,” Samuelsson said.

Reporting by Esha Vaish

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