By on March 20, 2019

Volvo has burdened itself with the unrealistic duty of ending fatalities in its cars. While an admirable goal, eliminating roadway mishaps in their entirety is an exceptionally tall order. We’ve often wondered how the company intends to progress toward its zero-death target. The automaker has already said it intends to reduce speeding by limiting the top speed of all models to 112 mph.

On Wednesday, the company said it will introduce an orange “Care Key” that allows owners to apply whatever maximum velocity they desire (below 112 mph) and an in-car camera system designed to keep you from misbehaving behind the wheel. Volvo’s commitment to safety seems to exist without boundaries, but it leaves us wondering how far is too far. 

The Care Key is simple, straightforward, and not a terrible idea. Volvo frames it as a way to keep younger drivers from breaking the law or driving beyond their limits. The company is also inviting insurance companies in several markets to offer special, favorable insurance to members of the Volvo community using its new safety features — which is something we’ll come back to in a bit.

From Volvo:

Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars’ chief executive, said this month that the company wants to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right or maybe even the obligation to install technology in cars that changes their owners’ behaviour. Now that such technology is available to use, this question becomes even more important.

The speed limit and the Care Key are both part of that initiative and illustrate how car makers can take active responsibility for striving to achieve zero traffic fatalities by supporting better driver behaviour.

“We believe that a car maker has a responsibility to help improve traffic safety,” said Samuelsson. “Our recently announced speed limit fits that thinking and the Care Key is another example. Many want to be able to share their car with friends and family, but are unsure about how to make sure they are safe on the road. The Care Key provides one good solution and extra peace of mind.”

However, the amount of peace of mind generated by the in-car camera system likely hinges on how palatable you find breaches in personal privacy. If you’re the sort of person that puts pieces of tape over your computer camera, this isn’t going to fly. But Volvo believes the system will help eliminate distracted, drunk, or drowsy driving. While it seems the automaker is still working out how exactly the system will function, Volvo claims it will appear on models donning its scalable SPA2 vehicle platform in the early 2020s.

Similar sounding to Cadillac’s Super Cruise system, Volvo’s camera will perpetually monitor the operator and assess how they’re doing. If their driving becomes erratic, their eyelids aren’t where they’re supposed to be, or they can’t keep their hands on the wheel, the car will slow itself and issue a warning to the driver. From there, Volvo On Call contacts the driver to make sure everything is okay. If the driver doesn’t respond and/or their “behavior doesn’t improve,” Volvo will stop the vehicle entirely and dispatch emergency services, if needed.

While we love the idea of improved safety and the elimination of distracted or drunk driving, the notion of an always-on nanny cam for adults is slightly unsettling. Almost everything we do online is shared, scrutinized, and sold. What’s stopping Volvo (or other manufacturers) from taking advantage of us or exercising an unsavory amount of control with connected cars?

Insurance groups endorse just about every safety net automakers and tech companies come up with. Meanwhile, manufacturers are seeking partnerships with insurance companies in the hopes they’ll provide discounts on models equipped with their newest safety systems, helping them convince federal regulators to green-light the technologies. Statically, the safest thing you can do right now is purchase the biggest car money can buy and consistently wear a seatbelt. But automated interventions are likely to provide additional safety support, provided you’re comfortable with the cost and understand how to use them.

However, critics complain that a sudden influx of sensors will make automotive repair bills astronomical, limit driving freedoms, cross the line of personal privacy, and further drive up MSRPs. Advocates counter these claims by saying reduced roadway fatalities are worth any sacrifice.

We’re interested in what you think.

[Images: Volvo Cars]

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48 Comments on “Here’s Looking at You, Kid: Volvo to Deploy In-car Cameras to Monitor Your Behavior...”


  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    No absolutely not. I get pissed off that i pay $500 dollars for a PS4 and sony tells me what i can and cannot do with the unit. Intruding in my car is absolutely out of the question. I’m all for HELPING a person who is drunk to stay off the road………….but with tech like this…..they will have you arrested for sitting in your car and being drunk. People who know they cannot drive because they are drunk are far from home fall asleep in the car with out moving it and they can get arrested. It’s another way to fuck the working man and rip us off for our money. Volvo can go f*ck themselves. that tech will be abused and misused by this theiving goverment. Fu volvo.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I caught a drunk teenager sleeping in her car by my place a couple of years back. I told her she could either give me her parent’s phone number to have them come and get her, or I’d call the cops. She told me to p*ss off, and I turned her in to the cops. The cops told me her parents were royally p*ssed at me too for doing it, and made a similar “she was just sleeping it off” argument, but that’s bulls**t. The kid shouldn’t have been drunk and in a car. Period.

      If I were the kid’s dad, I’d rather get the “your kid was found passed out drunk in a car” and deal with the attorney bills than “your kid’s on a slab at the morgue” and deal with the funeral home bills…or worse yet, the “your kid is dead, and she took a family of six with her” call.

      Sorry, if you’re drunk, you have no business being in a car, awake or asleep, unless you’re a passenger.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        or should could have given you her parent’s number, they could have come and got her. Everybody would have been happy.

        I don’t mind someone sleeping it off, but you gave her a fair choice and she made the wrong decision. She’s likely not accustomed to being held responsible for her decisions. This may have been a good life lesson for her.

        • 0 avatar
          Chris Powers

          “or should could have given you her parent’s number, they could have come and got her. Everybody would have been happy.”

          I don’t think she would have been happy.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        The obvious drunken teenager response to busy-bodied twits reporting them for sleeping in their cars is to attempt to drive home instead. You should be asking drunks sleeping in cars for life advice. You certainly can’t make better decisions on your own.

        • 0 avatar
          DEVILLE88

          niiiiice reply!!! Instead of helping they make it worse. If you wanted to help the person SLEEPING in THEIR car because they know they should not drive you dont have them carted off to jail. if it was your kid how would you feel???

      • 0 avatar
        Chris Powers

        There’s a good chance the lesson learned was “I should have tried to drive home.”

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Hey, freedom ain’t free, Chris. Or something like that. Better that the kid dies, and maybe even takes a family of six out in the process. Lord knows that’s better than being a busybody and calling the cops.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            How was a kid sleeping in a car going to kill six people? A kid roused from their drunken sleep and threatened with a police call is definitely motivated to put people at risk. You need to learn your limitations, which are manifold.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Oh, OK, Todd, I’ll take that under careful consideration.

            Like I said…troll elsewhere.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I’m going to guess that this isn’t the first time you’ve been dismissive of wisdom.

      • 0 avatar
        Jon Fage

        In Canada, “sleeping it off” in a car is grounds for the charge of “care and control” under the Criminal Code of Canada and carries the same penalty as impaired driving. Impaired driving is a criminal offense here and not just a traffic offense.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      So you’re enraged at Volvo because they’re introducing technology which doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re worried about, which is something that happens anyway regardless of the car?

      Rage on, man. You tell them! Don’t let them… Not do what you’re afraid of and what already happens! Yeah! Fight the power!

      Mercedes has had exactly the same driver attention monitoring for years, but somehow avoided the TTAC commenter wildfire for all this time – presumably because there wasn’t a hive-poking article about it.

      Tell people that Germans did it because it’s cool tech and they love it. Tell ’em Swedes did the same thing to keep them safe, and all hell breaks loose. Sigh.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    SCREW YOU VOLVO.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The Care Key is simple, straightforward, and a terrible idea.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    A week after it’s introduced some lawyer will file suit against:

    Volvo after a drunk in a Volvo mows down a group of high-school cheerleaders crossing a street.

    OR

    A Volvo owner who didn’t exercise “responsibility” by allowing his/her teenage child to use the car without limitations, therefore allegedly being responsible for a crash.

    This is a misfire.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Fun fact: the f-bomb is the same word in English and Swedish.

  • avatar
    Groovypippin

    Funny, I must have missed the part where it said, “Libertarians will be forced to buy a Volvo equipped with these features on pain of death” judging from the semi-hysterical reaction.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’m no libertarian, but if the libertarians around here get exercised about this, I’m with them. This is a crap idea.

      Having said that, though, this is just an internet forum, and it’s not relevant. The market is relevant, and I have a feeling about 90% of car buyers will agree with me on this one.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    “reduce speeding by limiting the top speed of all models to 112 mph”
    Yeah, because 111 in a 25 MPH zone isn’t speeding. Nope, not at all. Sound more like they limit the top speed to 112 MPH so that the factory-standard tires can be non-speed-rated junk.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    I like Volvo, but I think this is a bridge too far and will hurt their viability.

    I look at this and think, “I’d be fine with my wife’s car being like this, but not my own car.”

    That’s the big problem: it sounds really good for someone else’s car. Even a family member’s car.

    The minute that a vehicle sounds like a really good idea “for someone else”, sales will suffer.

  • avatar
    jatz

    Pfft.. just cover the lens with a little electrical tape like you would the CEL.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Thanks a lot, Volvo. You make me want you less and less.
    Made in China – check
    Owned by Chinese – check
    Turbocharged-supercharged without ANY MPG gain – check
    iPad instead of buttons – check
    camera to watch me – no thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      couldn’t have said it better — or more concisely — myself.

      This seems to be kind of a cheat, if it’s in service of the goal of zero fatalities in Volvo vehicles. I mean, why not protect the occupants so they can survive any crash that the vehicle would encounter (which, admittedly, might require speed-limiting well under 112 mph)?

      Volvos used to have really nice seats. I wonder if that’s still true? Otherwise, it’s a pass. Buy German, and you get the same pricing, the same reliability and the same repair bills.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Well said.

      I’ll add that my recent (Fall 2018) encounter with their sales staff was very unimpressive. They quoted a 5-month wait for an XC-40, and really didn’t seem interested in talking with me. I didn’t even drive the car; it was cramped and cold inside.

      Then I learned that Volvo sits at (or near) the bottom of the reliability ratings, and have sky-high repair costs.

      No thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      Some of that isn’t correct.

      Our Volvo wasn’t made in China. We also posted a solid MPG gain – T6 (6 cylinder) we averaged 18.5mpg. With the new T6, we average 22.5.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Garrett,

        of course, not all V made in China. But many. S60 I see here is from New Zealand, S90 – China, v90 CC – Sweden, XC60 – China (some from sweden), XC40-Sweden . .

        Well, people average that with Toyota Highlander v6 and Honda Odyssey v6 and on REGULAR gas as well

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    This may be irrelevant since the EU is looking at speed governors directly connected to the speed limit via GPS and the internet.

    It’s in an insurance company’s interest to reduce claims by forcing their clients to minimize risk. They have no obligation to leave the client with a life.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Just a little late Volvo, Ford has had My Key as standard for 10 model years now and it was optional on some vehicles before that.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    The 112 speed limter is a great idea, for Volvo, thats because their current cars are so dynamicaly unsound even 80 feels dangerous.

    This is frankly a Chinese company, they’re all good with big brotehr monitoring evrything, and have no culture of driving. So if the back seat is big it must be a good car.

    Seriously has anyone driven one of the modern volvos, they serious suck.

    By contrast Hyundais and Kias drive great.

  • avatar

    Volvo is rapidly turning into totalitarian police state. No wonder – it is now a Chinese company.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      What part of my having the choice to give my kid a speed-limiting key, or my having the choice to turn on driver attention monitoring, is a “police state”? That makes absolutely no sense. Nobody here is telling me what to do. Your Volvo isn’t going to throw you in jail.

      The hysteria about this stuff is really over the top.

      • 0 avatar
        DEVILLE88

        where’s the choice??? This will be implemented into the car. read the comments on putting tape over the camera lens on your phone or laptop. This is how it starts. It won’t be so “over the top”when they refuse to give you your drivers license unless you comply with giving info that clearly intrudes on your right to privacy. We are losing our freedoms piece by piece everyday. And yes anything in that blackbox in your new volvo will also be allowed in a courtroom. I am not advocating drunk or wreckless driving,im looking at the bigger picture. Do you enjoy being monitored?

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      And since we’re competing with China, we’re now same way. Lets see, total facial recognition, rapid DNA, and more programs that establish total control of what we do every moment of our life. Besides – goodle, apple, facebook, nest, fridge, whatnot . .

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The internet tells me that well over 3,000 people die in road crashes each *day* on average around the world (with injuries/disabilities an order of magnitude higher). Can that be right?

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    There’s that Chinese ownership shining through!

    Don’t worry we will monitor your behavior and tell you if what you’re doing is approved by TPTB.

    Who wants this crap?!

  • avatar
    ajla

    The features on their own aren’t a huge deal.

    However, this snippet: “Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars’ chief executive, said this month that the company wants to start a conversation about whether car makers have the right ****or maybe even the obligation**** to install technology in cars that changes their owners’ behaviour.” tells me that Volvo isn’t a company I would want to support.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    one look around our world and it becomes fairly easy to conclude that humanity apparently needs all the ‘monitoring’ it can get…

  • avatar

    I find it interesting how many folks seem to want to ascribe these changes to the Chinese. These are very Scandinavian/European ideas. The Swedes are very much in charge of how Volvo is running, and Geely makes money in the process… just like when Chinese folks invest in any other company. The controlling share hasn’t done too much with Volvo. Under Chinese ownership, Volvo is building it’s first cars ever in the US. So technically Merica is ahead with Volvo now more than ever before. Some XC60s and all the S90s are built in China, but that’s really about it at this time.

    So long as it’s an on off feature, I don’t much care. Options are good things to have. I wouldn’t want to get a car with it always on… because like everyone else pissed off about it, I’m sometimes a bad driver and wish to remain so. I wouldn’t want it on my car for sure, but I am not gonna freak out over it until the government bans my use of pre computer automobiles on the road.

    That being said, Volvo has never tried to capture large segments of the market. They are expanding in popularity with their push into the lux market and it’s hard to come down too hard on a company experiencing good growth in a generally down market.


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