Volvo cars have been popular for their safety standards across the world for quite some time. Even now, in the age of more advanced technology, Volvo remains one of the premium carmakers who h some of the safest cars on the road. The company is simply known to put safety on top priority while designing a car.
Behind this reputation is a small team at Volvo which has turned 50 years recently. They are the crash scene investigators of the Volvo Car Accident Research Team. Internally they are popular as the company’s in-house detectives.
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The Swedish car maker’s own CSI team work around the clock to make sure that Volvo learns from real-life accidents and constantly improves the safety features in its cars.
“The Accident Research Team’s hard work and research allows Volvo Cars to make sure that a tragic traffic accident can lead to something good: ever safer cars," says Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. “By closely analysing what has happened during each phase of an accident, the team provides crucial information on what can be improved on our cars."
The team, operational since 1970, quickly get to any accident spot around Gothenburg, Sweden, if a Volvo car is involved in that crash. They start an investigation and document the sequence of events as detailed as possible.
They ask questions about the force of the impact, the speed at which the active safety systems intervened, condition of the passengers, the weather factor, road conditions and many more.
They also get hold of publicly accessible police reports, get in touch with the driver involved in the crash and examines the car when possible. The team also tries to understand how the driver experienced the accident, a process that involves the Volvo Cars Safety Centre’s behavioural scientists.
Finally, the team asks the people involved in the accident to share their medical records, which allows them to take note of any injuries sustained. These are analysed by biomechanics experts, in cooperation with physicists, to understand the exact causes of the injury.
All the data and knowledge collected is coded and depersonalised. Conclusions from this research are shared with Volvo’s product development teams, who use it to develop and implement new technologies in upcoming cars. The team also identifies things that can’t be solved today – allowing Volvo Cars to remain at the forefront of safety development.
Every year, the team investigates around 30-50 accidents in person, but accidents happen all over the world and the scene can be hard to reach on time. In those cases and to the degree possible, the detectives work to map out accidents with the support from Volvo personnel and emergency services closer to the site.
On top of that, the team also uses other sources of information such as public accident databases found globally to make sure that the necessary steps are taken.
“The Accident Research Team is far from the only source of research data for our safety experts, but it plays an important role for us to really understand the details," adds Malin Ekholm. “Accidents do still happen, but nowadays the consequences are much milder and serious injuries are much rarer than they used to be."