Volvo limits the top speed: it stops at 180 km/h

Car manufacturers have a responsibility, says the head of the company. With this technical limitation, they want to save lives.

Built-in speed limit to save lives: Volvo wants to avoid accidents with this measure Photo: reuters/Bob Strong

A free ride for free citizens? Starting next year, that will no longer be the case on German autobahns – at least not for owners of new Volvo models. In the future, they will have to stop at 180 kilometers per hour. All vehicles delivered from 2020 will be equipped with technical devices that will make higher speeds impossible, Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson announced on Monday.

The reason: Volvo considers "unnecessarily high" speeds to be a major cause of serious traffic accidents. "There’s no reason why you should drive a Volvo faster than 180 km/h," Samuelsson explained in an interview on Swedish Radio, "If you take German autobahns, for example, a large proportion of serious accidents happen because of excessive speeds. And excessive is definitely anything over 180."

Won’t that scare off customers? No, Volvo believes: rather, it will strengthen Volvo’s reputation as a producer of "safe" cars. Samuelsson said that he could imagine that the company would be accused of acting in a "Big Brother" manner if it did not want to leave it up to customers to decide for themselves how fast they could drive: "And that can certainly be discussed."

But he said the company also has a responsibility as a carmaker for what buyers might use the product for after they buy it. And at higher speeds, even the best safety technology is not enough to prevent serious damage or fatalities. Such a speed brake is certainly not a universal solution, but it is worth a try because it could certainly save lives. For special models, such as police cars, it will be possible to switch off this technology.

Intervention in driving as a duty of manufacturers?

In Sweden, where there are no roads without speed limits and the maximum speed allowed on highways is 120 kilometers per hour, Volvo was immediately criticized for saying that 180 kilometers per hour was far too high a speed. But it is understandable that Volvo, as a global player, must also take into account markets like Germany, "where extreme speeds are permitted," says Marie Norden, director of the road safety association NTF. In any case, her organization hopes that other automakers will follow Volvo’s example.

According to Samuelsson, the current speed limit, "through which we definitely expect to be able to avoid some accidents," is just a first step. He added that Volvo’s research department is working on projects on how a combination of intelligent speed control and geofencing technology could be used to enable automatic speed limits near schools, kindergartens or hospitals, for example.

At home, Volvo is criticized because even a speed of 180 kilometers per hour is much too high

And, says the Volvo boss, "We’d like to have a fundamental discussion about whether car manufacturers not only have a right, but even an obligation, to install technology that can intervene in driver behavior."

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