- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

The Volvo Safety Concept Car almost puts eyes in the side and back of the driver's head to eliminate blind spots and gives drivers an almost unhindered view of what's ahead, alongside and in back of the car.

Recently introduced at the Detroit Auto Show, the SCC combines innovative engineering, new materials and electronic gadgetry to eliminate many of the safety shortcomings of conventional cars. The eyes deliver more than 90 percent of important road information to a driver said Helen Petrauskas, safety chief of Volvo's parent company, Ford Motor Co.

"If we improve the quality of this visual information, we will also improve the driver's ability to make the right decisions in difficult situations, thus avoiding collisions," Miss Petrauskas said.

Volvo safety engineers designed the SCC around the driver's eyes to provide enhanced vision of the road and other cars. At the same time, the Swedish safety specialists made the SCC more visible to other drivers in an attempt to prevent crashes.

Immediately upon the driver's sitting in front of the steering wheel, a sensor locates his or her eyes. A computer uses this data to automatically shift the position of seats, pedals, steering wheel and even the center console that houses the gear lever to the optimum position for the driver's field of view.

Engineers who designed the car at Volvo's California Concept Center, also used imaginative new technology to eliminate blind spots. For instance, the A-pillars use a metal box construction and translucent Plexiglas so the driver can see through them. The B-pillars between the front and rear doors curve inward in a way that gives the driver an unobstructed view of the side rear field of vision of the vehicle.

A radar device measures distance to vehicles in the rear and alongside the car to reveal traffic in blind spots. There are also rear-facing cameras in the side-view mirrors to reveal vehicles and eliminate another blind spot. Other cameras in the rear roof bar of the SCC can reveal small children or animals in back of the vehicle when drivers are in reverse gear.

Other innovations include a system that aims headlights in the direction the driver is steering, an infrared night-vision system, a forward-facing camera that alerts the driver if there is any tendency for the car to veer off the road, and brake lights that flash on and off when the driver hits the brakes very hard.

Volvo gives the SCC traditional safety features the brand is known for. The B-pillars and front-seat frames create a safety cage to improve occupant protection in rollovers and side-impact crashes. The SCC has new inside safety features, such as four-point seat belts and a new type of three-point belt that has a supplemental diagonal chest belt. Electrically adjustable rear-seat cushions can be infinitely changed to provide children with the most comfortable and safest seating positions.

Pedestrian safety is a feature of the SCC. An external air bag inflates to protect pedestrians and bicyclists if they are hit by the car. Another unusual feature of the SCC is its remote control Volvo calls a Personal Communicator. It has a fingerprint sensor that personalizes the device. A driver only has to grab the door handle to unlock the door and start the car without a key.

The PC transmits the driver's personal preferences to adjust the seat, steering wheel and floor pedals. The PC can also be programmed with several destinations to automatically set the car's navigation system.

There's a heartbeat sensor to alert the driver if a child or a pet is left in the car, or if an intruder is hiding in the vehicle. The sensor even works if the driver is more than 300 feet from the car, because it can transmit the alarms to a cell phone.

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