Volvo EyeCar is the most recent example of advanced safety developments at Volvo Cars. EyeCar is a Volvo concept car that demonstrates entirely new technology designed to give every individual driver - irrespective of height and build – an optimum seating position to ensure the best possible visibility and comfort.
Offering a comfortable seating position and thus good visibility to all drivers irrespective of their build is a challenge that the car industry has so far been unable to meet. Short drivers sometimes find it difficult to see comfortably over the instrument panel or determine where the position of the car's nose. For tall drivers, the problem is often that the head is too close to the roof.
The new technology in Volvo's EyeCar concept vehicle places all drivers at exactly the same elevation irrespective of differences in individual height, which in turn offers unrestricted vision and a seating position that is individually tailored to suit the specific driver. The new technology in the Volvo EyeCar features the following, among other things:
Perfect driving position
- Sensors that register the position of the driver's eyes and then adjust the position of the seat accordingly.
- Automatic electrical adjustment of the driver's seat to the optimum height for best visibility, and electrical operation that automatically adjusts the position of the steering wheel, pedal box and even the car's floor to provide the most comfortable driving position. The driver can naturally fine-tune the adjustments for perfect comfort.
- Owing to an entirely new B-post design, Volvo's engineers have succeeded in providing a better field of vision from the driver's seat. At the same time, the function of the B-post in the car's collision safety structure has been further enhanced.
- Utilisation of the increased strength in the fixed seat back for absorbing incoming collision forces. These forces are then redirected and dissipated to the car's substantial floor and roof structures.
Different techniques are utilised to determine the position of the driver's eyes. One system uses the human eye's unique method of reflecting light, while another uses the fluid content of the human body.
A video camera positioned at the upper inside edge of the windscreen scans the driver's seat to register a pattern that resembles the driver's head. After that, the camera scans the area that corresponds to the driver's head and in stage three, the camera locates the eyes and pinpoints the exact centre of each eye. This multi-stage process takes less than a second to complete.
Since lighting conditions may vary considerably inside a car, the video camera is equipped with its own infrared light source to ensure sufficient lighting. This light is totally invisible to the human eye and does not interfere with the driver in any way.
The eye reacts with unique reflexes to the incoming light, and this is registered by the camera. The on-board processor compares these reflexes with a pre-programmed pattern and accordingly adjusts the driver's seat to the optimum height. This is followed by adjustment of the pedals, steering column, handbrake lever and floor to match the altered height of the driver's seat. Finally, the system uses pre-registered data on human body proportions to set an optimum seating position for the individual driver. The driver can of course make any fine adjustments that may be necessary to ensure perfect seating comfort.
The second technology utilises a sensor integrated into the inner roof to measure electrical current directly above the driver's seat. When someone sits in the seat, these current patterns change owing to the water content of the occupant's body. The sensor measures these changes and determines the distance to the top of the driver's head. Since the distance from the eyes to the top of the head varies very little from one person to the next, the seat can be accurately adjusted so that the top of the head is positioned about 7.5 centimetres below the roof to give the driver an optimum field of vision.
In order to integrate better with the new technology in the Volvo EyeCar, several other functions have been changed in comparison with a conventional car. Since the driver's seat in the EyeCar is positioned in what is normally the most rearward position in a conventional car, the controls that are normally housed in the instrument panel have been relocated to the centre console, where they are operated by ergonomically designed push-buttons. As a result, drivers with short arms do not need to stretch forward to adjust the radio or climate system.
Enhanced crash safety
The system that ensures the optimum driving position in the Volvo EyeCar gives drivers of all sizes and builds the best possible forward field of vision and access to the car's controls and instruments. The innovative design of the B-post eliminates the problem of intrusion into the sideways field of vision while at the same time improving protection in rollover and side-impact collisions. Since the position of the driver's seat is locked, the seat structure itself can also be exploited to absorb incoming collision forces, which are dissipated to the floor and roof.
Other parts of the EyeCar are also designed for improved crash safety. The adjustable pedals are designed to reduce foot and leg injuries in a frontal impact. The steering column collapses horizontally, thus providing more survival space for the driver, and since the location of the driver is known, it is also possible to fine-tune the way in which the driver's airbag and the side airbags deploy in a collision.
Separate electrical motors regulate the position of the driver's seat, steering column, accelerator and brake pedals, as well as the floor on the driver's side. For example, the seat cushion can move 118 millimetres at an angle of 16.8 degrees along the seat backrest. The pedals can move 240 millimetres at an angle of 30 degrees. Manual adjustments permit fine-tuning of all the various settings to ensure unmatched ergonomics.
The Volvo EyeCar is the first sign that the Volvo Car Corporation has been appointed to lead the development of car safety within the entire Ford Motor Company. All companies under the Ford umbrella will benefit from the research and development undertaken by Volvo Cars in the field of car safety.