Jul 10, 2019

Volvo takes the lead on female safety

A digital representation of a virtual female crash test dummy. Photo: Volvo Cars

Volvo Cars is taking the gender safety gap seriously. In March, the Swedish carmaker announced it will share 40 years of safety research with other automakers as part of its E.V.A. Initiative, or Equal Vehicles for All.

Why it matters: Cars should protect everyone — not just the average male, says Volvo, which has been redesigning some of its cars' safety systems to better protect women based on its own evidence that women are at higher risk for injury than men.

The backdrop: Volvo has been collecting and analyzing real-world crash data since 1970.

  • The information gathered from more than 40,000 cars and 70,000 passengers led to many of the safety innovations Volvo has introduced since then.

Details: Because women's anatomy puts them at higher risk of whiplash than men, Volvo designed a new seat to protect both the head and spine. The company says it no longer sees a difference in whiplash risk between men and women.

  • Volvo also made its side curtain airbags cover the entire window to protect smaller women who sit lower and closer to the steering wheel.
  • The company also developed the world's first virtual pregnant crash test dummy to study how a woman and her fetus are affected in a crash.
"What it comes down to is not designing for a test, but designing for the real world."
— Volvo Cars spokesman Jim Nichols

Go deeper: The gender gap in car safety leaves women at risk

Go deeper

The gender gap in car safety leaves women at risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Cars are safer than they've ever been thanks to new life-saving features, yet women face a much higher risk than men of being seriously injured or killed in a crash, a new study finds.

The big picture: Most vehicle safety tests are conducted using male crash test dummies. But designing safety systems to protect the "average male" leaves everyone else more vulnerable. In the race to develop self-driving cars, some safety advocates worry the danger women face in today's vehicles could be pushed aside to focus on AV safety.

Go deeperArrowJul 10, 2019

Women are less trusting of self-driving cars

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Women are less enthusiastic than men about the prospect of driverless cars. Until researchers understand why, it will be difficult for autonomous vehicle developers to win their trust.

Why it matters: AVs are supposed to bring fewer traffic deaths and improved access to transportation, but only if people trust them. To deliver on those promises, AV companies need to consider women's concerns about the technology, which could be exacerbated by worries about personal safety and a lack of accountability when there is no driver present.

Go deeperArrowAug 7, 2019

Self-driving cars could be more fuel-efficient than human drivers

Photo: Volvo Cars

The expected benefits of self-driving cars are widely touted: They will be safer than human drivers and improve access to transportation for people with disabilities, the elderly and the poor.

One other potential benefit: They will be better for the environment (and not just because most AVs will be electric).

Go deeperArrowAug 7, 2019