Volvo Cars Are Back At it Again With Another “Terrible Idea”

And we shouldn’t complain

In March 2019, Volvo mooted the idea to electronically limit the speed of their cars at 180kph, blaming the main cause of serious injuries and road accidents on speeding. A year later, they announced their decision to implement this technology on all Volvo cars, much to the public’s dismay.

The introduction of a “terrible idea”

Back in 1959, Volvo presented the first three-point safety belt which was invented by a Volvo Engineer, Nils Bohlin. With the public's safety in mind, Volvo made Bohlin’s patent available to all car makers. However, it was met with criticism and largely rejected by the industry and the public dubbed the safety belt law to be a “terrible idea”, with The New York Times claiming it to be a violation of human rights.

In 1973, the New York Times said the seat belt law “violates individual human rights”.

It was after years of persistent advocacy and leadership by Volvo that the public finally opened up to the idea of seat belts, eventually leading to Malaysia’s seatbelt legislation in 1979.

Survivor stories and how Volvo is taking the bold step to save more lives in "A Million More".

41 years later, Volvo Cars has stepped up to the plate once again with an initiative that challenges the way industry and public perceive safety with their campaign, “A Million More.” This campaign highlights car safety throughout the years and features car accident survivors whose lives were saved guessed it, safety belts

Almost every car in the market has a safety belt now, and an estimation of more than a million lives have been saved by this invention. 

But Volvo is not done yet. 

The installation of 180kph speedcap

They have decided to tackle the dangers of speeding with “another terrible” idea. Starting from this year, there will be a speed cap of 180kph on all new Volvo cars. As with Volvo’s previous step of prioritizing safety, discussions about whether or not car makers have the right or obligation to install technology in cars that changes a driver’s behaviour have sprouted.

Image via Top Gear 

Managing Director of Volvo Car Malaysia, Nalin Jain said, “The reactions to the 180kph speed cap is similar, if not nearly identical, to the comments from the general public in 1973. We know that our decision to introduce a speed cap would cause a stir amongst the public, but sometimes all it takes is that one person to come out and make a stance to change the world. For us, controversial or not, it is making the hard and uncomfortable decision to save a million more lives all the more worth it.”

Image via Volvo Cars

Senior Technical Advisor of Safety at Volvo Cars, Jan Ivarsson, was quoted as saying “We all understand the dangers with snakes, spiders and heights. With speeds, not so much. People often drive too fast in a given traffic situation and have poor speed adaptation in relation to that traffic situation and their own capabilities as a driver. We need to support better behaviour and help people.”

Nalin concludes that, “As a leader in safety, we want to do our part in reducing road fatalities in our cities. We believe that a speed limitation is a definite cure, but with this latest campaign, we hope that Malaysians will be able to see what is at stake – their own lives, and those of their loved ones and fellow road users – if they don’t put a cap to speeding. Volvo will continue to lead the charge for road safety and in the near future, tackle the problem areas of intoxication and distraction, and other innovative concepts and ideas that will help save a million more lives in the future.”

The future of human rights vs. safety features

Despite the public outcry everytime a new safety feature by Volvo is introduced, it is undeniable that these very features are saving the lives of many. And if lives are being saved, is it not worth to accept these “infringements” on human rights?

Maybe we should all take a moment or two to reevaluate our priorities. 

Cover image via Car Sifu

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