New: A weekly newsletter about the trends shaping cities

Stories

Volvo takes the lead on female safety

Virtual female crash test dummy for Volvo cars
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