Volvo's always had a watchful eye toward safety but now the automaker's wondering if being a Big Brother to drivers isn't a bad thing.
CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Motor Authority on Wednesday that his company may not only be responsible to monitor the safety of its cars, but also to monitor the people who drive them.
Today, that means limiting the top speed of all Volvos to 112 mph beginning with the 2021 model year. Tomorrow, it could mean more.
Volvo in-car camera system
On Wednesday, Samuelsson announced sweeping changes at the Swedish automaker as part of its Vision 2020 plan that will include an in-vehicle monitoring system that will use in-car cameras to watch drivers, a "Care Key" guest-driver safety key, and an initiative to share 40 years of crash data with others in the industry.
Beyond those plans? The automaker's not shy about talking drivers' rights and what responsibility automakers have to act as Big Brother, Samuelsson said.
Just because the speed limit is 55 mph doesn't mean it's safe, he said. Based on conditions, the road's design determined by sensors, and other data, future Volvos might calculate a maximum speed that the car "could not pass," Samuelsson said.
Volvo may limit the top speed, but Samuelsson said acceleration would "definitely not planned to be limited." He said acceleration can also be a safety measure: either for overtaking or quick corrections, and electric powertrains can help with instant torque.
Samuelsson agrees that some places, schools or hospitals, should be places where speed is strictly limited—even by the car. Do people have the fundamental right to do what they want, where they want, however fast they want?
"That can't be. It's not (the driver's) life," Samuelsson said.
The executive was quick to note that the automaker can't guarantee that someone is sober just because the vehicle's system's classified the driver as sober.
Volvo isn't some Big Brother, but "maybe you need to be that."
2020 Volvo XC90
The automaker still needs to sell cars—and it isn't the Red Cross—but Volvo agrees that the brand that bills itself on safety now needs to go further.
What about buyers interested in burly V-8s, top speeds, or extreme speed?
"We have already lost them," he said.
Samuelsson said Volvo wants to attract customers who think it's important to drive safe. Those that don't would probably choose another brand, "and I think that's probably good."
Volvo provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.