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A Look At The New Volvo And The Car's Future

A white Volvo
Brian Champagne

If you’re in your car right now, look around the inside. You might see leather and plastic, but how about crystal? There’s a car out now with some nice materials inside, and a future one that could get your eyes back on the road if you take too much time looking at them.

Forgive the dramatic background music, that’s the sound of new Volvos dropping 100 feet from a crane.

“We do that because the rescue team or emergency service need to develop new methods to release people inside the car with a severe crash,” said Hakan Gustafson who studies crashed Volvos.

That’s the safety stuff Volvo wants you to expect. But they want more expectations. They loaned us a U.S.- built S60 T8 E-All Wheel Drive Inscription to show it. The S60 is their mid-ish car, the T8 means it has gas and electric motors giving it all-wheel drive. Charge the batteries at work and hey, free 22 miles of electric driving. And Inscription is the luxury line, with more materials than a craft fair, including leather, chrome, driftwood inlays, and an Orrefors crystal shift handle. It’s center screen is the same size as a Tesla’s.

This is why we can have nice things, because they’re in the front seat of our car where our kids can’t wreck ‘em.

Those engines combine to make 400 horsepower. It’ll get itself moving, and has safety systems that stop itself, even if you don’t.

“My name is Malin Ekholm, I’m head of Volvo Cars Safety Center. Distraction, Intoxication, are definitely two big challenges. Speed is another big challenge.”

And the tech they’re working on to tackle those problems now is a camera pointed at you, the driver.

“Not to film you, but the camera being the sensor with the highest level of detail to understand where you are in your mind. So the eye is the mirror to the soul, and we’re wanting to use the camera to understand where you are attention-wide and bring you back,” Ekholm said.

If you close your eyes or look away too long, or drive erratically, first it turns on any support systems you may have turned off. Then it gives you a signal to pay attention. And just like your angry dad threatened when you fought your siblings in the back seat, it will pull the car over, contact you, and send help if you need it.

“People are awesome drivers when they’re at their best,” Ekohlm said. “We need to make sure you’re at your best all of the time.”

Our loaner S60 proved it has a start on this tech, finding parking spaces and pulling into them itself. It’s just not perfect yet, and we were still in charge. For now.

Brian Champagne grew up in the less-famous Central California but left after starting his television news career there. He worked 22 years in news for NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliates in four markets. He served as chief photographer for KTXL-TV in Sacramento, but worked in front of the camera, too.