Cars crash, and people get hurt. This is the reality of a world built around 2-ton vehicles that can travel at high speeds. But according to a detailed database of tens of thousands of car crashes in Sweden that the Volvo has been keeping since the 1970s, who gets hurt in these crashes is changing—and it’s forcing the automaker to rethink what car safety means.
“Because a lot of the development in the past years has led to a lot safer car-to-car crashes, people don’t get injured as often when a car crashes with another car,” says Mikael Ljung Aust, senior technical leader at Volvo’s Safety Center. One study comparing crashes in car models from the 1980s against those from the 2010s found that the newer cars had a 22% lower risk of injury and a 66% lower risk of death. When it comes to car crash injuries today, car-to-pedestrian and car-to-cyclist crashes are taking up a larger portion of the database. “It’s the new challenge,” he says. “We need to deal with vulnerable road users.”