by John Cadogan

Update: Volvo S60 Review.

Volvo’s new safety technology – pedestrian detection with automatic braking – has, inconveniently, been marred by its failure to prevent impact in tightly controlled demonstrations in Europe.

A number of significant crashes took place during the botched demonstrations, which were conducted for ‘photo opportunity’ purposes at a press event held for the Australian media last week.

In total, 25 per cent – or one in four – of the Australian media’s demonstration runs saw the new Volvo S60 violently clean up a simulated pedestrian with enough force to cause significant trauma in a live pedestrian.

One Australian participant in the botched tests described the simulated pedestrian impacts as taking place with “sickening force” and in a manner that “would almost certainly have been a bone-breaking impact” if the pedestrian had been a real person.

The demonstrations, held in Europe, used a mannequin (jovially named ‘Bob’) in place of a person – thankfully. In one run, a Volvo instructor was driving and in the others journalists were at the wheel, with a Volvo instructor carefully monitoring the approach speed. In two of the tests, apparently, the system recognized ‘Bob’ much too late to avoid impact despite approach speed being within the system’s impact-avoidance limits. In the third test, it’s claimed, the system failed to recognize ‘Bob’ at all.

The pedestrian-braking system uses radar, a camera and advanced software to deal with – or not, as it happens – the serious problem of pedestrian impact, which comprises about one-eighth of Australia’s road toll. If the system reacts and the speed it too high, Volvo claims impact will be unavoidable – but at least speed and therefore trauma will be ameliorated.

According to respected Australian motoring journalist Steve Colquhoun, after the first crash a Volvo spokesperson initially alleged that a tractor and trailer parked approximately 30 metres behind ‘Bob’ might have confused the system. Mr Colquhoun says that a further two impacts with ‘Bob’ took place after the tractor/trailer combination had been removed – including the run in which the automatic system did not react to ‘Bob’s’ presence at all.

The event is certainly an embarrassing one for Volvo, which claims that in total around 650 media participated in the week-long demonstration – with a claimed 99.7 per cent success rate – the nature of the failed 0.3 per cent of runs appears to be undisclosed.

While Volvo’s position remains that the fledgling technology is unable to prevent all pedestrian impacts, in part because the system’s effectiveness is compromised by low light and/or inclement weather, Mr Colquhoun has reported that the demonstration was conducted in, apparently, ideal conditions – and on a test track carefully selected by the company for this sole purpose.

In a subsequent statement Jonas Pisell, who manages Volvo’s active safety systems claimed: “The failure of the test was due to the dummy not being set up properly.” He described the dummy as: “not relevant in this situation”. Video of one of the three demonstration crashes shows the dummy clearly in front of the evaluation vehicle.

This is not the first time a Volvo automatic braking demonstration has gone horribly – and very publicly – wrong. Volvo has had an appalling run with demonstrations of its automatic braking technology in 2010. Earlier this year, in another international media demonstration held in Volvo’s homeland – Sweden – its rear-end collision prevention system dubbed City Safety failed to deploy, causing the demonstration vehicle to plow into the rear of a truck. It suffered significant damage. After that mishap the company claimed the malfunction was due to a low-voltage event in the vehicle’s electrical system, and has (it claims) fixed the flawed software that allowed the City Safety system’s un-commanded shutdown to occur.


    I love technology but I would prefer to brake than to leave it to the car!

    • j

      Imagine the lawsuits from all the idiots, I mean Americans, who rely on the sensor to brake instead of you know, their own eyes, and hit people?

      It’s great technology, but too many will rely on it and use it as the primary means of not hitting anyone, instead of it being a back up to when you dont see someone, or don’t react in time…

  • Stevo Terry

    With the number of carjackings going on at the moment this is one feature I definitely do not want.

    • Deano

      In theory its a good thing. However, I partly agree with Stevo Terry. My other big gripe is the increasing number of selfish (that’s putting it politely) pedestrians who you see these days who delberately cause cars to stop because they know the driver isn’t going to risk hitting them.

  • TomJ

    I think they need to be implementing this behind the scenes rather than making such a big deal about it.


    I don’t see what the big deal is, all new technologies have glitches before they are refined, at least they are investing in something that would become worthwhile, lets look at what our local producers are coming up with, HSV – look at me I have a graph that tells me how much g – force or braking percentage I’m applying WOW!!!!! Volvo will get this right eventually and in about 50 years time Holden and Ford will pick it up

    • ABMPSV

      I agree. No new technology from GM/Ford what they got is bigger and bigger engines. VW got twin charger.

      • Karl

        Err… sorry to break it to you ABMPSV but;
        Ecotec V6 = 3.8 ltr
        Alloytec = 3.6ltr
        SIDI = 3.0 ltr.
        Are you noticing a trend here?

      • My Cars Called T-Rex

        Revo Knukle is a Ford invention.I think you will also find vw didn’t invent the twincharge system.

    • Shak

      lets see. Ford have got Dual clutch transmissions, Holden have LPI, Blind Spot assist, Ford have a Diesel SUV for under 45K, One of the best L6 engines in the world, Holden have an infotainment system with wireless Audio streaming from any multimedia device, also with integrated Sat nav and Voice recognition. I dont know about you, but that would seem like a fair bit of technology from two local outfits have shoestring budgets, modest R&D teams and not much access to sharing agreements from other manufacturers.

      • VW No 1

        Yeah I think he was talking about local made cars which have what, a HSV on gas, what a joke, who wants a HSV taxi

        Best (oldest, thirstiest, head gasket chewing, soon to be chopped) L6 engine, revless dog

        Infotainment and all the other gadgets that have been in the euros since turn of century, you can get better for $200 at Supercheap.

        All the half decent bits from the locals are grabbed from overseas cars and bolted on, just drill a hole and shove it in, Anything made or developed here are weak points

        Take off your aussie flag glasses, they are terrible cars that will be gone in five years

        • Shak

          Off course the Euro boys pioneered much of the technology that we have in our local cars nowadays, mainly due to their aforementioned massive R&D budgets and huge engineering base. The funny thing though is, your beloved Euros, VW for example cant seem to offer all of that tech in a package anywhere near our locals price point. Crow on about how outdated we are in Australia, or how our local cars are irrelevant, but i would much rather have the choice of all this genuie Aussie kit and kaboodle rather than not.

          • VW No 1

            Australia makes big dumb cars, for big dumb people such as yourself, they are aussie in the same way as vomiting in a taxi.
            They have a target market which is mostly scum.

        • JEKYL & HYDE


          if you don’t like the big dumb australia,with its big dumb aussies,then p1ssoff back to where your ansestors came from,and don’t grace us with your big dumb opinions…

        • My Cars Called T-Rex

          Hay VW No 1,guess what???Toyota is No 1 not VW and you should buy a HSV on gas,you could hook it up to your mouth,you would save heaps of money.And when Europes economy collapses say good by to most or your VW line up.

        • Dave S

          You sound very bitter. I doubt very much there is a VW of any sense that match the local cars for Value, accomodation and performance.

          I can Only think of the Audi A8, which has a touch screen fitted. At that price not a competitor to any local car.

          Surely your view on Aussie cars, only exists to stir other readers up. Not in any way a serious constructive comment.

          The local Cars bring some of the best gear form around the world and make it affordable.

          What does VW do to offer performance and economy? Here have a turbo (dirty) diesel and enjoy the sound of your new tractor.

          • VW No 1

            Look at all your yob comments above confirming what I said.
            The only reason you buy a local Holden or Ford is you carnt afford anything better.
            Only young goons that take out loans they carnt afford, or fat bathurst loving middle age blokes buy the “performance” (70’s tech engine shoehorned in) versions.
            Downright filth buy them second hand cause they are worth nothing.

            They are the dreams of the lowerclass

        • Dave

          I can see what you are saying, the Germans do make great cars however unfortunately not all bmw’s, vw’s and Mercedes Benz are made in Germany, the previous generation vw Golf was made in South Africa, current BMW 3 series wagon South Africa, BMW x6 America. What country do you come from and why do you hate Australia so much, there are plenty of educated Australians out there. Finally if Australians are dumb as you said (lack of articulate language) why do we have an equal literacy rate to Germany of 99% and also have a HDI or human development index of 2nd in the world after Norway. Stand corrected!

          • VW No 1

            That was a really boring reading there Dave, the fact that you took time out to research that says a lot.

            Dave about 40% of the population is flat out reading “See spot run” but they are considered literate.

            This weekend on your way home from hunkyboys nightclub, have a look at the people yelling slurs at you, look at what they are driving, yep local made cars.

          • Blitzkrieg

            Ha ha VW No 11 you can’t spell! (carnt)


        look if holdens A pillars weren’t the size of that fat bird off of “The Circles” butt then they wouldn’t need blind spot assist and the HSV sat nav system is the clunkiest getting around, a $300 Tom Tom from Autobahn is more user friendly and I don’t know what you reckon a shoe string budget is but blowing billions on developing the VE says they have way too much cash. I guess money is no object in the high flying business world is it “MR Suit” As for Ford how many tens of millions have they blown on this new FPV GT with a pokey engine and it looks no different to the last model. Thats the problem with half the stooges on this site, no one can spell Audi or even BMW wake up and smell the Germans!

        • matt

          how hitler of you, spam word sti… you have many.

  • Shak

    I really feel for Volvo right now. They are trying to pioneer all of this life saving tech and are really not doing well. Two failed demonstrations is really starting to show an alarming trend. I guess now we wait for Subaru’s version and see how well they do.


      I’m sure Volvo feel so much better knowing that you’re thinking of them, if only you thought of Mazda before you bought that MX-5 and started it’s reputation.

  • Yani Hendriawan

    where’s this video, and isn’t this news a bit old

  • Vins

    I would agree with Stevo Terry. Good intention but will be abused by the creative car jacker. Hopefully it comes with a manual override function.

  • EuroLegend

    Are carjackers smart enough to know what a volvo is and anyway who in their right mind carjacks a volvo seriously ha ha ha

  • Supremist

    Don’t worry Volve are smart they will have a jigger-boo setting programmed in, so there will be no stopping for your average car jacker

    • skamad

      As a black man I find that comment incredibly offensive, I hope you get cancer

  • Karl

    My initial reaction is that this technology useless. But if its failing 25% of the time, it could stop 75% of collisions. Its a start at least.


    if the volvo doesn’t stop for “BOB” then there is little hope for “SKIPPY” either…

  • Mariusz

    If it works a few times in real life it’s worth it. It can only get better from here. Top job Volvo!