Even as the debate around autonomous driving continues, the real test for the system is not how it navigates to a destination, rather how good it is at avoiding accidents. Swedish automobile manufacturer, Volvo, is prepared for the acid test as it demonstrates its Collision Warning and Emergency Brake System in a video shared on social media site.
For a good part of the last decade, Volvo has offered City Safety features on its cars that help in preventing low-speed accidents. Armed with a camera and radar unit mounted on top of the windshield, the system can detect vehicles and pedestrians that are likely to collide with your vehicle. It prepares the braking system to be deployed and if the driver does not respond in time, can even apply full brakes to avoid an accident, its website claims. There are speed limits under which the system works.
In the latest video, the technology is deployed on a truck that is fully loaded to 40 tons and although the speeds are not specified, appears to be on the higher side.
Although the initial clips in the video feature a demo vehicle, the fully loaded Volvo truck does come scaringly close to the stationary vehicle. Volvo's faith in its anti-lock braking system (ABS) is clearly seen as it leaves it to the last second to bring the truck to the absolute stop.
It is also likely that the system is designed to alarm the driver first rather than interfere every single time it computes a threat. This is something we clearly see in the point of view clip from inside the truck as it approaches a slow-moving vehicle.
The system deploys an ascending alarm tone and even slows down the truck as it gets closer to the vehicle ahead. This gives the driver sufficient time to change his lane and avoid the vehicle altogether without stopping the vehicle abruptly. It is only if the driver pays no heed to the repeated alarms, high-pitched enough to wake you up from the deepest slumber, the system takes control of the situation and stops the vehicle.
The experience is a bit unnerving and sure your increase your heart rate but also reassuring at the same time that truck does not rear-end the vehicle in front, even if it means the cab lurching forward due to the sudden shift in momentum.
As some users pointed out in the comments, it would interesting to see if the system works similarly well in raining or snowy conditions. Interesting Engineering has reached out to Volvo for a comment on this and will update this story when a comment is received.