December 15, 2020
CSI Sweden: Volvo Car’s crash scene investigators celebrate 50th anniversary
In 1970, the Volvo Cars Traffic Accident Research Team went on call, ready to respond to traffic accidents around the Gothenburg area on Sweden’s west coast. Since then, the Team has investigated thousands of car accidents and delivered life-saving research that has changed how cars are designed and, ultimately, how they protect people.
“The Accident Research Team’s hard work and research allows Volvo Cars to make sure that a tragic traffic accident can lead to something good: ever safer cars,” says Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. “By closely analysing what has happened during each phase of an accident, the team provides crucial information on what can be improved in our cars.”
When our team arrives at a crash scene, they start an investigation and document the sequence of events in as much detail as possible. How forceful was the impact? How quickly did the active safety systems intervene? How are the passengers? What was the weather like? What time was it? In what condition were the road markings?
The work continues back at the office: our team requests publicly accessible police reports, contacts the driver and examines the car when possible. The team also tries to understand how the driver experienced the accident, a process that involves our Volvo Cars Safety Centre’s behavioural scientists.
Finally, our team will ask the people involved in the accident to share their medical records, which allows us to take note of any injuries sustained. These are analysed by biomechanics experts, in cooperation with physicists, to understand the exact causes of any injuries.
All the data and knowledge collected is coded and depersonalised. Conclusions from this research are shared with our product development teams, who use it to develop and implement new technologies in our upcoming cars. Our team also identifies things that can’t be solved today – allowing us to remain at the forefront of safety development.
Every year, the team investigates around 30-50 accidents in person, but accidents happen all over the world and the scene can be hard to reach on time. In those cases and to the degree possible, our detectives work to map out accidents with the support from our local Volvo personnel and emergency services closer to the site.
“Our Accident Research Team is far from the only source of research data for our safety experts, but it plays an important role for us to really understand the details,” adds Malin Ekholm. “Accidents do still happen, but nowadays the consequences are much milder and serious injuries are much rarer than they used to be.”