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Volvo Wants To Use Tech To Reduce Distractions

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The interior of the XC40 Recharge, which will feature tech to reduce distractions
Photo: Volvo

In the modern world, distractions are an inevitability. Not only do you have to contend with the never-ending demands of family life and work, but there’s a very real possibility that every person you’ve ever known is actively trying to get your attention via social media. When you’re behind the wheel, this ceases to be a nuisance and becomes a safety hazard. That’s why Volvo is looking into ways to use technology to reduce on-road distractions.

Smart and efficient: The 2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid

Understanding the situation

It’s not exactly a secret that cars today sport more technology than ever; a great deal of it geared toward entertainment. Because many of these features need to be accessed via a touch screen — which does require you to take your eyes off the road, however briefly — it’s easy to equate tech with distractions.

In order to address this issue, researchers at Volvo took a look at the nature of distraction. The first thing they highlighted is that technology is by no means the only thing that can draw your attention away from where it’s meant to be. Malin Ekholm, the head of Volvo Cars Safety Centre, said, “It is easy to think that phones and screens are the only scourge of the modern driver, but life as a whole is distracting.” They then went on to cite commonplace issues as being late for daycare or having a bad day at work, saying, “all of that affects you as a driver.”

Next, they turned their focus to “using technology in the right way.” Volvo understands that these features can pull your attention away from the road, but aren’t going anywhere. Instead, it wants to use them to reduce distractions rather than encourage them.

Thinking smarter

Internal safety research conducted by Volvo indicated that properly applied technology could drastically reduce distractions and make the road a safer place for everyone. For example, active driver-assist features that keep drivers centered in their lanes or automatically apply the brakes can go a long way toward preventing accidents. Some vehicles — like the upcoming XC40 Recharge — even allow you to operate the infotainment system with voice controls, eliminating the need to take your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.

The automaker also plans to equip future models with active distraction-mitigation technology like in-vehicle cameras. If the system senses that your attention is wavering, it will signal you to return your eyes to the road. If you don’t respond for long enough — whether because of extreme distraction, intoxication, or any number of other factors — the vehicle can contact the Volvo on Call assistance service or even slow to a stop and park itself away from traffic.

Technology does have the potential to distract, but it can also be used to counteract that danger. It will be interesting to see how Volvo’s ambitions in the smart safety world change the road in the coming years.

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