As messed up as the year 2020 is, it also marks many important milestones as far as the automotive scene is concerned. Just a couple of months ago, one of the most important features in a car – the safety belt – celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The three-point seatbelt as we know it today was actually created by Volvo in 1959 and the manufacturer was so convinced of its safety potential that it made the patent available for other manufacturers, and motorists, to benefit from.
And although we may now take it for granted, modern technological developments such as seat belt pre-tensioners are designed to work in conjunction with the same basic design of the seatbelt, so it remains the single most important safety feature on all modern cars.
Volvo was also the first manufacturer to fit three-point safety belts as standard equipment in its cars from 1963. Now required by law in modern cars, it continues to protect hundreds of thousands of people from death or serious injury in car accidents every year. In fact, Volvo claims that the seatbelt has already saved a million lives, and aims to save a million more
Nils Bohlin, a Volvo engineer invented the first three-point safety belt in 1959. As is the case with being a pioneer, Bohlin's design was largely dismissed despite the data proving its efficacy.
This led to the installation of the three-point safety belt in all of Volvo's cars like the Amazon, which happens to be the first car in Malaysia to come with the feature. Seat-belt laws only came to being in Malaysian in the early seventies. The first Malaysian car that came equipped with front seat belts was our beloved Proton Saga.
50 years have passed, and safety features have evolved so much that cars can pretty much drive themselves today, but the three-point safety belt remains unchanged and remains the first thing you need to fasten before you roll-out.
Unfortunately, as advanced as these safety features have become, the number of accidents on our roads is actually still very high. Let us look at the number of road fatalities in Malaysia over the past six years:
- 2014 – 6,674 deaths
- 2015 – 6,706 deaths
- 2016 – 7,374 deaths
- 2017 – 6,740 deaths
- 2018 – 6,284 deaths
- 2019 – 7,152 deaths
In case you’re wondering why the numbers are at such an alarming rate, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that the top cause of accidents globally is speeding. Taking that in mind, Volvo, in typical Volvo fashion, did something rather drastic earlier this year.
On top of whatever safety and driver assistance features present in their cars, Volvo, in an effort to send a strong signal about the dangers of speeding, has reduced the top speed of all its new cars to 180 km/h in 2020. The company also announced that it is looking at how smart speed control and geofencing technology could automatically limit speeds near schools and hospitals in the future.
Just like how the three-point seatbelt received massive criticism from the media and the public back when it was introduced, saying that it is oppressing the driver and whatnot, the brand’s decision to introduce a speed limit of 180 km/h has also received mixed reactions.
While many are arguing that the speed cap will prevent drivers from enjoying the full capabilities of the car, we feel that it is definitely a good idea as 180 km/h is actually very fast for our roads. Plus, you don’t really have to go past 180 km/h to put the cars to the test or have fun, do you?
Just go for a drive along some twisty bits like Ulu Yam, or Kuala Kelawang and see how much speed you actually need to have a good time. You’ll be surprised.
But that is not all. Volvo, as the next step in bringing down the number of crashes on the road worldwide, announced through its latest “A million more” campaign that it will be introducing in-car cameras to prevent intoxicated or distracted driving, which seems to be the main cause of accidents nowadays.
It is said that these in-car cameras will be standard on every single model built on the upcoming SPA2 platform.
While the Swedish marque has not disclosed details like the positioning or final number of cameras that will be fitted in the cars, prototypes that were revealed earlier this year had a camera in each A-pillar, both of which were augmented by an additional sensor.
As complicated as it may sound, the folks at Volvo said that the feature will be setup in a way that it is extremely functional.
Do you think that it is a good idea to fix a camera to constantly monitor your driving behaviour?
While some may argue that this is a bit overboard and that Volvo needs to take a chill pill, we feel that steps like these are extremely necessary, looking at how irresponsible and careless motorists have become.
It would be even better if Volvo can come up with a feature that would make the driver put his or her mobile device down and focus on the road – now that is what we need as soon as possible if we are to save a million more lives.