Here is another candidate for the Car of The Year 2016. The Volvo XC90, a car linked to the brand that is, still, synonym of excellence in terms of safety. The complete design story is available in Auto & Design no. 213.
For Volvo, safety is not just a synonym for equipment, research, technology and respect for the law. It is a value inherent in the brand, a priority that determines the final product right from the early stages of its design. The importance of safety in the story of Volvo has distant roots – more than 50 years ago – and standards have been very high at all times. It was 1959 when the Volvo PV 544 proposed three-point seat belts as standard, a world first, and it was in 1964 when the first experimental seat for child protection made its appearance on the same car.
As a pioneer of safety, the brand has continued to focus on the issue to the point of achieving higher and higher quality standards in its equipment levels. It has also gained important world awards, such as the recent mention from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the occasion of the 24th edition of the International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) for two of Volvo’s top safety experts – Trent Victor (Senior Technical Leader Crash Avoidance) and Jonas Ekmark (Manager Innovation for Active Safety and Chassis) for their contribution to car safety.
Certainly safety is not always easy to see and finding strategies to make it perceptible is the task of the designers who, in the development of the new XC90, forerunner of the new age in brand design, have endeavoured to create an immediate feeling of confidence in the car. ”When we started work on the XC90, three years ago, we wondered how we could support a new definition of safety that went beyond the presence of active and passive safety systems”, explains Volvo design chief Thomas Ingelath. “The ability to prevent accidents with intelligent systems, videocameras and radar has become crucial for personal wellbeing. As is confirmed by the increasingly advanced studies and experiments on autonomous driving, feeling safe today is becoming more important than other factors and this is something we must take account of”.
“We need to know how to create a perception of safety”, Ingelath continues, “especially in the premium segment where protection of occupants is vital, and helps build a relationship of trust with the vehicle. It is important to feel at ease on board and be fully aware of the friendliness and protection of the surrounding environment. A clean, clear-cut design with linear surfaces without too many buttons helps to create this sense of calm, familiarity and control”, he continues. “As for the exterior, in the XC90 we have tried to create elegantly timeless aesthetics with balanced proportions and a strong brand identity expressed very forcefully at both front and rear by the new lighting signatures. Other formal solutions express sturdiness, solidity and road presence, like the high beltline, the powerful rear shoulders and some of the surface intersections like that at the base of the headlight”, concludes Ingelath.