New Volvo XC90 can spot deer or moose as well as people

xc coupe concept
Image: Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

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DETROIT—I'd aimed for Volvo’s booth to see the company’s new connected infotainment system, Sensus Connect. But that’s not on display at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Instead, the Swedish automaker is showing off concept vehicles that hint at future Volvo styling and, of course, safety features.

The company has video demos running in its booth of safety features that are in production, pre-production, and sometime-in-the-future-production. Here are a couple of features that will debut in the new XC90 hatchback, which we’ll see at the end of January.

Detecting people at night

Last year, we took a look at Volvo’s Pedestrian Detection feature, which uses the car’s forward-facing windshield-mounted camera to detect people and cyclists. If the car detects a person moving in a potentially unsafe manner toward or in front of the vehicle, it alerts the driver with audible and visual cues. If the driver fails to heed the alert and apply the brake, the system can apply the brake independently. It intervenes only at the last minute and should not be mistaken for an autonomous driving feature.

Now, Volvo has improved its cameras to be able to detect pedestrians at night, even before the driver can see them, as well as large animals such as deer, elk, and moose. This is an important step, Volvo says, because over 40 percent of accidents involving pedestrians happen at night. Future Volvo vehicles will have even more advanced Pedestrian Detection thanks to 360-degree radar sensors, which will let cars detect pedestrians at an angle (such as at corners) before they cross the street.

Keeping you on the road

Many cars today have a lane-keeping safety feature, which uses some combination of cameras and radar sensors to identify lane markings and alert you when you begin to drift away from center. Some systems, like the one we tried in the Acura RLX, can even use automated steering to nudge you back inside your lane.

Staying within your lane is important if you’re driving on a multi-lane highway in moderate traffic. But what if you’re driving on a small, winding two-lane road? Volvo has developed an industry-first safety feature called Road Edge and Barrier Detection with Steering Assist. This feature can detect the side of the road—whether it’s a sheer drop-off or a barrier of some sort—and autonomously apply steering torque to keep you from starting an accidental off-road adventure. As Volvo grimly put it, “You are a lot more likely to die if you go off-road.”

volvo autonomous parking naias detroit auto show 2014 Image: Volvo

In thie illustration of its autonomous parking feature, Volvo shows how the car continues to use Pedestrain Detection and other feaures

Looking to the future

The company is also working on a personal valet-type of situation involving autonomous parking – similar to Audi’s autonomous parking concept shown off at CES in 2013.

In Volvo’s scenario, you can hop out of your car, tap a button on your smartphone, and have your car whisk itself away to park in a vehicle-to-X-equipped parking garage. Later, you can tap another button to have your car come pick you up.

Volvo’s system is different from Audi’s concept, however, because in Volvo’s scenario, the car continues to use its built-in safety tech, including Pedestrian Detection, as it parks itself. As always with Volvo, safety comes first.

This story, "New Volvo XC90 can spot deer or moose as well as people" was originally published by TechHive.

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