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Volvo takes the slow lane to safety

Mr Samuelsson says Volvo is looking at ways to tackle other dangerous driver behaviour.


IS Volvo about to become "Slowvo"? The Swedish car maker has announced that it will limit the maximum speed of its new cars to 180 kmh from next year onwards.

The move is part of the safety-minded brand's ambitious goal to ensure that no one is killed in a Volvo by 2020.

Voluntary speed limits are already a common practice in the car industry. Germany's main manufacturers have a "gentleman's agreement" to limit their machines to 250 kmh, for example.

But that creates its own opportunities. Daimler's Mercedes-AMG brand charges customers extra if they want to buy their high performance cars with a higher top speed, for example.

Japan's car makers limit their machines to 180 kmh for the domestic market, after informally agreeing to do so among themselves in 1998.

Volvo said that it is slowing its cars down because people simply drive too fast for their own good.

"As humans, we all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much," Jan Ivarsson, a safety expert from Volvo Cars, said in a statement.

"People often drive too fast in a given traffic situation, and have poor speed adaption in relation to that traffic situation and their own capabilities as a driver. We need to support better behaviour, and help people realise and understand that speeding is dangerous."

Figures from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration in the US show that 25 per cent of all traffic fatalities in 2017 there were caused by speeding.

Volvo said that safety technologies are not enough to prevent death or serious injury above certain speeds. It is also researching how to use geofencing to automatically slow its cars down around schools and hospitals.

Apart from cutting speed, the company is now looking at ways to tackle other dangerous driver behaviour.

"We want to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even an obligation to install technology in cars that changes their driver's behaviour, to tackle things like speeding, intoxication or distraction," said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars.

Louis Soon, a designer who drives a Volvo XC40, told The Business Times that he disagrees with the move. "I think it takes away the freedom of choice. Not that anyone would do more than 180 kmh anyway, but it should be a decision for us to make since we are buying the cars," he said.

But Volvo said that its experts are acting soundly. "Because of our research, we know where the problem areas are when it comes to ending serious injuries and fatalities in our cars," said Mr Samuelsson. "And while a speed limitation is not a cure-all, it's worth doing if we can even save one life."

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