Cars used to be simple, “dumb” machines. You insert the key, crank it up, you drive it, you park it, and you walk away. Rinse and repeat. Its components only worked with the key in the ignition. It could only move with you in the driver’s seat.
It was only “alive” when the engine was running. When it was off, it was dead. It did nothing until you returned with the key. But now, cars have crossed over.
Cars are giant computers on wheels. They’re connected and intuitive. They can learn your habits. They can even compensate for your mistakes.
Volvo has placed itself at the forefront of this modern class of automobiles with its redesigned 2016 XC90 crossover SUV. It can park itself, steer itself, keep its distance between vehicles in traffic — it can even detect pedestrians, and stops you from driving into oncoming traffic.
And it comes with its own smartphone app.
Volvo put together a mix of innovations that make the XC90 one of the most connected modern automobiles on the road. Here are some of the highlights.
Meet Senus, Volvo’s virtual assistant
In our XC90 road test, we described Senus as Siri’s older, more cultured sister. This interface is where you control most of the XC90’s features, including climate control and navigation.
It’s also where you can adjust the seats, headrests, vehicle dynamics, smartphone integration — all in one tablet-sized center-mounted screen. We’ve seen a similar interface on Tesla’s vehicles.
City Safety: Electronic helpers that protect you and pedestrians
Volvo’s City Safety feature is actually a collection of features that rely on Volvo’s auto-braking technology, which is designed to help prevent collisions.
Auto-braking is becoming fairly common in vehicles, but Volvo’s interpretation of it includes a world-first that’s available on the new XC90 — the car will prevent you from turning left or right into oncoming traffic, one of the most common causes of collisions worldwide.
“It addresses vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, in certain situations, day and night,” says Volvo Safety Center senior technical specialist, Prof. Lotta Jakobsson, using an array of cameras, sensors and radar built into the car.
Volvo is probably best-known for its commitment to safety.
The carmaker is digging its heels further into that mission with Vision 2020. That’s an initiative Volvo launched that it says will produce Volvo cars that are so safe that by the year 2020, the goal is to have no occupants die or be seriously injured inside a new Volvo in a collision.
That’s an ambitious undertaking to be sure, but the manufacturer claims it is within reach.
Bryan Logan/Business Insider
A look at the Volvo On Call app on iPhone
Volvo On Call
This technology comes with Volvo’s own smartphone app that allows you to interact with the vehicle from just about anywhere.
It works on iOS (and the Apple Watch), Android and Windows Phone.
During one point in our XC90 test, we were able to retrieve information about the car from our offices in San Francisco while it was parked 10 miles away in Daly City.
We sit on the verge of another motoring revolution; where various levels of autonomous driving are at the forefront, and cars will get even better at communicating with us and their surroundings,
It’s clear that cars are no longer dormant machines.
They are intuitive. We’re in an era where they “talk” to us. And when self-driving vehicles finally hit the road en masse, they will likely be talking to each other as well.