Diving ever-deeper into the subcategories of roadway safety, Volvo has begun smashing bike helmets against the hoods of its vehicles in order to improve cyclist safety.
- Volvo and sports apparel company POC begin world-first car-bike crash tests.
- Dummy wearing bike helmet projected against stationary Volvo vehicle at different angles.
- The first-of-its-kind tests are designed to gather data on — and prevent — injuries sustained during a car and cyclist crash.
- Cyclist detection with full auto brake already standard on all new Volvo Cars vehicles.
Volvo is famous for being a safety-obsessed company; it’s essentially the founding pillar of the brand. While other automakers focused on sexy body lines and horsepower in the 1950s, a Volvo engineer designed the first-ever three-point seatbelt. Now 60 years into its safety offensive, the iconic Swedish carmaker has been forced to start exploring the dark corners of road-user wellbeing.
Accordingly, Volvo Cars announced this week that it has paired with sports apparel brand POC to create the world’s first car-bike helmet crash test. The two companies initiated the tests in order to better understand — and prevent — the injuries sustained when a cyclist collides with a car.
The tests are rather rudimentary. Volvo and POC strap a bike helmet to a dummy on a test rig. Then they propel it against a stationary Volvo vehicle at different angles and speeds.
Amazingly, despite decades of bicycle helmet development, no one had created such a crash-test scheme. Until now, bike helmet testing involved dropping helmets on the ground. As an avid cyclist, I would have thought someone would have thought to bounce one off a car by now. Go figure.
“This project with POC is a good example of our pioneering spirit in safety,” Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Center, and one of the company’s leading safety engineers, said in a prepared statement. “We often develop new testing methods for challenging traffic scenarios. Our aim is not only to meet legal requirements or pass rating tests. Instead we go beyond ratings, using real traffic situations to develop technology that further improves safety.”
These new tests aren’t Volvo’s first foray into cyclist safety. It launched its ‘cyclist detection with full auto brake’ system in 2013. The system uses cameras mounted on the exterior of the car to recognize a cyclist. If it detects a collision with a cyclist is imminent, it will warn the driver. If they don’t respond in time, the car will apply the brakes to avoid — or at least mitigate — the crash. The cyclist detection system, along with the brand’s pedestrian detection, is now standard on all Volvo vehicles, as part of its City Safety package.
Volvo also developed a pedestrian airbag in 2016, which deploys from the windshield side of the hood, should the car collide with a pedestrian — further example of Volvo’s uncovering every roadway safety aspect it can find.
These safety tests might seem like an unnecessary use of time and money to skeptical onlookers. But with our increasingly urbanizing society, these sorts of safety tests are essential. Since carmakers turned mobility companies like General Motors and Ford are beginning to sell and advocate for people riding bikes, more work needs to be done to protect them against being hit by cars.