Back to School 2020 | Home Schooling

August 12th, 2020 by

Why History, Physics and Geography are important subjects to remember when purchasing a vehicle in 2020.

I was recently thrown into home-schooling my kids for a month. It gave me a whole new respect for educators everywhere. Now I am no teacher, but it did give me the realization that the courses that we took in school stay with us throughout our lives. So in the spirit of education and how it ties to our everyday life I thought it would be fun to correlate that to my passion for the Volvo brand and how it relates to Safety. This three-part series will start with history. This is a shared history in more ways than one. This is the history of a brand but also of an industry and you will see that it is the history that paves the way for a better future for all of us regardless of the brand of vehicle they drive.

At Volvo we started making cars in 1927 because we believed nobody else was making them strong enough or safe enough for Swedish roads. Along the way we have come up with dozens of innovations, some of which have changed the world and it is this commitment that drives us forward to the next great Volvo Cars idea.

Volvo began investing in safety early in its history, but the breakthrough that has shaped the brand’s identity is without question the fact they invented the three-point seatbelt. Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin came up with the idea, and it was introduced into the series production PV544 in 1959.

Just as impressive as the invention is the fact that Volvo Cars waived its patent rights to the three-point seatbelt so more people could benefit. Since then, it is estimated that over one million lives have been saved as a result.

1972 – rearward-facing child safety seat

Remember those early images of astronauts lying on their backs during take-off to even out the forces? Well, that was the basic principle behind our rearward-facing child seats, to spread the load and minimize injury. Then we innovated in 1976 with the child booster seat and again in 1990 with an integrated booster built right into the seat.

1991 – side impact protection

Another major step forward for safety came with our Side Impact Protection System, or SIPS. This was an integral part of the car’s design and included a very strong structure and energy-absorbing materials on the inside, a cross member in the floor and even reinforced seats. We followed that up in 1994 with another world first, side-impact airbags.


1998 – whiplash protection system

Whiplash is a painful and potentially expensive injury. It is also quite common, so we focused on reducing low-speed collision injuries. The system consists of a very robust headrest close to the occupant’s head and a clever seat design that gives uniform support in a collision. The result is that the risk of long-term medical problems is half what they were.

1998 – inflatable curtain

The inflatable curtain was yet another leap forward in safety for Volvo Cars. It’s concealed in the headliner and runs from the front to the rear of the cabin – in the event of a side impact, the curtain inflates in just 25 thousandths of a second and can absorb 75% of the energy generated when the head is thrown sideways.

2002 – roll-over protection system (ROPS)

With the growing popularity of SUVs, we reckoned it was time to introduce our next safety innovation – rollover protection. We tackled the problem from two directions. Firstly, we enhanced our SUVs’ stability with a sophisticated electronic Roll Stability Control system and secondly, we improved the car’s safety structure with extremely tough boron steel in the roof.

2003 – blind spot information system (BLIS)

When drivers change lanes, a moment’s inattention can have catastrophic consequences if the driver has not spotted another car in the blind spot. So, we decided that our cars would watch out for trouble, too – our BLIS system uses cameras and radar to watch for vehicles alongside and offset to the rear of the Volvo. When a car enters the blind spot area, a warning lamp comes on near the door mirror, giving the driver ample time to react.

2008 – city safety

Here are some amazing statistics – 75% of all reported collisions take place at speeds of up to 30km/h and in 50% of rear-enders, the driver behind hasn’t braked at all. We saw an opportunity to make a great difference – our City Safety system uses laser detection to work out whether a collision with the car in front is likely, and if the driver doesn’t brake, the car will do it. And the system works up to 50km/h.

2010 – pedestrian detection with full auto brake

We want our safety innovations to benefit those outside our cars, too. So we’ve developed a system – using radar and cameras – that warns a driver if somebody steps out in front of the car, and then brakes automatically if the driver fails to. It’s a pretty huge step forwards, too; in the USA 11% of all traffic fatalities are pedestrians, rising to 14% in Europe and a truly astounding 26% in China.

2014 – Run-off Road Protection

Run-off road is behind half of all traffic fatalities in the United States. Volvo was again the pioneer testing road departure crashes – often the result of fatigue, poor weather conditions or a lack of driver’s attention. We focused on keeping occupants firmly in position, introducing unique ‘energy-absorbing’ functionalities in the seats that can mitigate spine injuries.

2016 – Connected Safety

Volvo Cars is defining a completely new type of road safety system in a world of connected cars. Our latest connected innovations – Slippery Road Alert and Hazard Light Alert – use the cloud to share critical data between vehicles, alerting the driver about slippery road sections or vehicles that have activated their hazard lights – providing the driver with enough time to slow down.

2018- Large Animal Detection

Volvo’s system uses radar to detect the objects around the car, and a camera to identify them. (The feature is part of the “city safety” package, which can pick out pedestrians.) Then it slows or stops based on the animal’s size, location, and movement. The idea is to hit the brakes as little as necessary, to minimize risks of being rear ended or losing control, especially if the animal’s about to be out of your path. This system works day or night and is currently exclusive to Volvo Cars.

2019 – E.V.A. Initiative

Our Accident Research Team has compiled real-world data since the 1970s to better understand what happens during a collision. In 1970, the Volvo Traffic Accident Research Team was formed. Since then, the team has gathered and analyzed data from more than 40,000 cars and 70,000 passengers. This has led to many of the innovative systems we have in our cars today. What Volvo sees is that women and men appear equally in this data. Which is why we believe they should be equally represented in testing. With the E.V.A. Initiative, we are sharing the results of more than 40 years of research. By letting everyone download this, we hope to make every car safer. Because at Volvo, we will always put people first. By collecting real-world data for a long time, it has been possible to identify what injuries arise in different accidents for average men, women, and children and in 2019 we created a portal to allow other manufactures to see the data we have collected since the seventies to insure that all manufacturers create the safest cars possible.


The invention of the seat belt might be Volvo’s most famous accomplishment, but it is far from their only one in the domain of road safety. The brand has pioneered a myriad of active and passive safety systems. So why is history so important to a car purchase and ownership? I think you can see how the history of Volvos pioneering achievements have helped secure a safer future not only for Volvo drivers but drivers of all brands thanks to Volvo’s philosophy off not patenting these safety innovations and making them available to all manufacturers. How we use this historical data culminates in the safest vehicles on the road today. I could rattle on ad infinitum about all of our impressive safety features forever but instead, we’ll leave this to a telling statistic: since the Volvo XC90 went on sale in the United Kingdom and the North America not a single occupant has ever been killed in a collision! 

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