An unofficial demonstration of a Volvo XC60’s semi-automated driving functionality in the Dominican Republic ended with the Volvo slamming into a strangely stationary man, who folded forward like a book slamming shut. Volvo essentially blames the owner cheaping out on options. Classy move, Volvo!
Here’s what seems to have happened, as seen in this video posted by the Dominican blog Remolacha.net:
The XC60 is described in the video title as ‘self-parking,’ but according to a Volvo spokesperson reached by the website Fusion, it appears more likely that the driver was
“trying to demonstrate pedestrian detection and auto-braking.”
The XC60 comes with Volvo’s City Safety system, which is designed to prevent you from distractedly rear-ending the car in front of you in stop-and-go traffic at speeds under 30 MPH. What the City Safety system doesn’t do is keep you from slamming into a person, like, say, a person in a pink shirt standing motionless directly in front of your car. To not hit people, you need to fork out another $3000 for Volvo’s “Pedestrian detection functionality,” which uses a windshield-mounted camera and a grille-based radar system. I think some dealers may offer this as part of a promotional “Manslaughter Delete” package.
Now, as much fun as it is to suggest that the Volvo became sentient and hell-bent on murder, the truth is that everyone involved here was being at least a little stupid. Volvo’s spokesperson reminds us that the heavy(ish) acceleration used here would have disabled the pedestrian detection system even if it was on the car (is this a way to allow Volvos to still be used to deliberately run people over? Is that a big market segment? Hit men?) and a good bit of blame needs to go to the people just standing in front of the car rushing right at them, because, come on. Millions of years of evolution have taught us to get the hell out of the way of massive things coming at us. This is why.
Volvo also goes out of their way to say
“Volvo Cars strongly recommends to never perform tests towards real humans.”
... so if you want to have fun with this stuff, time to scour the thrift stores for some mannequins.
Maybe Volvo is trying to shake their old “safety car” image for something more dangerous and bad-boy. Having their cars punch people in the gut’s not a bad way to do that.
This incident is also interesting as something that’s likely to only happen during this transition period we’re entering. We have cars now that are semi-autonomous driving capable, and that can open up a lot of possible confusion. Eventually, fully autonomous cars won’t let this sort of thing happen (hopefully), and old manually-driven cars will only hit you because of driver error or whatever you did with the driver’s spouse. This is likely to be the only period where someone may reasonably be confused as to the capabilities of a modern car when it comes to automatically not running them over.
That said, don’t be an idiot. Get out of the way of a moving car.