50 years of studying real accidents to improve road safety

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 3, 2019

“We work for the safety of all road users, both inside and outside our trucks. Our vision is zero accidents. There is no other alternative,” says Anna Theander, Accident Research Team leader (right), standing together with Anna Wrige Berling, traffic and product safety director at Volvo Trucks (left).

This year marks the 50th anniversary since Volvo Trucks‘ Accident Research Team began to systematically gather, analyse and act upon in-depth information about real-life traffic accidents. The knowledge gained provides unique value in the development of safety systems and future vehicle designs, with the objective of making trucks and transport safer.

By investigating actual accidents and carrying out analyses, the Accident Research Team can understand how accidents occur. This information can then be used in the development of safety systems.

The Accident Research Team‘s (ART) work focuses on improving both active and passive safety for Volvo trucks. Research into passive safety is designed to minimise the consequences of any accident, and active safety means avoiding or mitigating accidents. Understanding how traffic accidents occur, by deeply investigating actual incidents, can help prevent accidents from happening again and protect human lives.

“Every year 1.35 million people are killed globally in traffic accidents. This is something we take very seriously,” says Anna Wrige Berling, traffic and product safety director at Volvo Trucks. “Investigations by the Accident Research Team contribute valuable insight which ultimately helps give truck drivers a safer working environment and improve traffic safety for all road users. In addition, the work supports our safety vision that there should be no accidents involving Volvo trucks.”

ART leader Anna Theander says safety has been a core value at Volvo since the company was founded.

“In 1969 the Accident Research Team was created to investigate real-life traffic accidents. The objective was, and still is, to make traffic safer by using this information to improve future vehicle design.”

Today, the ART is a cross-disciplinary safety research network of safety experts. They create and share unique insights about the causes of real-life accidents – adding to the knowledge gained from laboratory crash tests. In addition, the team uses data analysis of national and regional traffic statistics to gain even deeper understanding.

“The deep knowledge that the ART attains serves as valuable safety input and guidance for our product development teams,” says Wrige Berling. “Although the ART does not by itself develop safety systems, our safety experts‘ understanding of complex accident scenarios gives the product development teams additional competence and confidence to create solutions that go beyond what was initially thought to be required.”

Theander says for 50 years, the ART has been learning from the past by investigating accident sites to feed crucial safety information to Volvo Trucks‘ product developers. 

“And looking to the future, the insights that the ART holds will continue to contribute to Volvo Trucks work to proactively improve road safety, for traditional human driving as well as for new autonomous vehicles.”