Crash Testing In The Old Days: Volvo Safety Video

August 17, 2009
Volvo safety test driver, 1959

Volvo safety test driver, 1959

Last Thursday was the 50th birthday of the three-point safety harness, invented by Volvo's first safety engineer, Nils Bohlin. After we ran an item to commemorate the event, we got a nice note from the UK offering us a video clip with some Volvo safety history.

The video turns out to have wonderful historic footage of how safety testing used to be done, back in the old days. Note, for instance, the extremely apprehensive look on the face of one test driver (around 0:15 into the video).

At about the 1:35 mark, you'll find out why he looks that way: Test drivers belted themselves into Volvo 544s and actually drove them onto ramps to flip them over, among other accident simulations.

Today's automated sleds that launch the cars into barriers? Nowhere to be seen. Check the 1967 Volvo 144 being pushed down a road by a pair of Swedish engineers to accelerate it (at roughly 0:46).

The video, justifiably, lauds Volvo's role in pioneering numerous safety advances. You may choose to ignore the data on seat-belt usage in the UK, but toward the end, the video also mentions the company's latest innovation: CitySafety.

That would be the low-speed crash avoidance system on the 2010 Volvo XC60 crossover that brakes automatically to avoid slamming into objects directly ahead. See our Quick Drive of the 2010 XC60, which covers the system.

Oh, and by the way: CitySafety deliberately brakes sharply and suddenly, so that drivers aren't tempted to get too reliant on it. Volvo is all for safety, but the driver has to pay attention. In our experience, just one application of CitySafety should scare even the drowsiest driver into alertness.

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