Whether or not car manufacturers will have to pry your precious steering wheel from your cold, dead hands, self-driving cars are coming. And like it or not, the reality is that your car will probably be safer and a more efficient driver than you.
At least that’s what Volvo’s super-safety mavens are out to prove, and they’ve got a whole arsenal of futuristic technology backing them up. The new Volvo S90 might not be quite as advanced as David Hasselhoff’s Knight Rider whip (sadly no grappling hook), but it’s the closest yet from any car maker. In addition to 360° parking aid cameras and lane departure warnings, it’s loaded with features that will ultimately make drivers feel more comfortable- here’s our five favorites.
1.) Pilot Assist
Autonomous driving experts define five levels of intelligence and control when it comes to self-driving cars. You’ve been driving at level one your whole life, whereas at level five, several years down the road, you’re pretty much a passenger; think of The Flintstones versus The Jetsons. The new S90 offers Pilot Assist, an optional level two feature that’s optimized for the highway.
It’s like a smarter cruise control, matching the current speed limit (and accelerating or decelerating when it changes), automatically turning with the road and keeping within designated lanes. It’s a freaky feeling moving your hands off the steering wheel and your foot off the pedals for the first time, but we immediately noticed tighter turning and more precision in general.
2.) City Safety
Volvo's been working for years toward a crazy-ambitious goal of zero fatalities in Volvo cars by 2020. They’ve offered collision avoidance functionality for years now and the newest iteration utilizes cameras, sensors and radars to engage the auto-brake at intersections and after detecting large animals, pedestrians and cyclists if the driver isn’t reacting in time. Considering there's more deer collisions each year than the entire population of Iceland, we're on board.
3.) Windshield Heads-Up Display
Designed to keep your eyes on the road as much as possible, a heads-up display is projected onto the windshield with basic information including the speed limit, your current speed, road hazards and the next direction in your navigation route. This is becoming more common in the cars, but that doesn’t lessen the epic feeling sort of like captaining the U.S.S. Enterprise.
4.) Unfocused Driver Alerts
An extensive crash research program has led to technology enabling the S90 to detect when a driver is unfocused, sleepy, texting or, most likely, playing Pokémon GO. A polite nudge in the form of a message asking you if it’s time for a break will appear on the HUD. Simple, yet effective.
Similar to Apple’s open-developer platform in the App Store, Volvo is preserving space in the car’s system for third-party downloads in the future. Unlike the App Store, however, the S90 also has an open hardware area to allow for tangible enhancements. Integrated in-vehicle espresso makers might not be too far off.
The Volvo S90 will be available in dealerships this September and starts at $46,950.