Volvo OTA Updates Pass 1 Million Mark, XC90 Recharge Earns Highest IIHS Safety Rating

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Volvo has announced that it has completed more than one million over-the-air software updates globally. This eleventh OTA from Volvo covered 350,000 vehicles worldwide and was its largest update ever. In the US, it allows owners to issue commands to their cars using their Google Assistant–enabled devices, so now they can say “Warm the car to 74 degrees” on their phone and climb into a comfortable car when it’s cold outside a few minutes later.

They can also check their battery status or fuel level, check on the charging status of their car, and either start or end a charging session. They can even say things like, “Hey, Google, what’s included in this update?” Volvo says it will add Google Assistant to cars in other markets in the near future and that the number of available commands will continue to grow.

Google Assistant can now be used to pre-warm or pre-cool your Volvo EV. Image courtesy of Volvo Cars.

In other markets, this latest update expands on Volvo’s Care Key technology, bringing integrated connectivity to tens of thousands of customers while also fixing several software bugs and making a number of stability improvements to the Care Key system it introduced in 2021. It allows owners to limit the maximum speed on the car below the built-in limit. It’s intended to give owners peace of mind when they loan the car to others or have a less experienced driver at the wheel.

Another new feature is a good example of how Volvo uses customer feedback to improve its cars. Some customers asked the company to make it easier to remove a paired device from the infotainment system. This latest software update adds a button to do precisely that.

Image courtesy of Volvo Cars.

“Over the air updates are a key technology that help us deliver on our ambition to make our cars continuously better. They also cement our position as an industry leader when it comes to updating car software remotely. Updates over the air also mean you don’t have to visit a workshop anymore to get the latest software, which we think is rather convenient,” Volvo says in a press release.

This update applies to vehicles in 68 markets — 22 more than at the time of the previous update. It adds integrated connectivity in several European markets, including Greece, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Iceland. This improvement provides customers with seamless connectivity, as their data plan now gets embedded into their car’s SIM card.

“Thanks to over the air updates and our rapidly growing in-house software development, we can create and deploy new features as well as enhance the customer experience much quicker than before. The launch of Google Assistant controlled actions is a demonstration of our commitment to providing our customers with a better car every day, adding more convenience and peace of mind,” said Alwin Bakkenes, head of software engineering at Volvo.

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IIHS Top Safety Pick + Awards For Volvo

Yesterday, we reported on the latest crash test results and safety awards from the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS). They have been bashing cars with battering rams since 2003 to find out how well they protect drivers and passengers in a collision. They have also developed sophisticated instrumented dummies to study the effects those crashes are likely to have on drivers and passengers, including women and young children.

This year, IIHS has raised the bar for its crash tests to reflect the fact that vehicles today are heavier than they were in 2003 — about one third heavier, in fact. The organization also decided that to qualify for its Top Safety Pick+ award, cars must now include an automatic emergency braking feature that recognizes pedestrians in the dark, not just in daylight. Last year, nearly 101 cars qualified for IIHS Top Safety Pick status. This year, only 48 did, and just 28 qualified for the Top Safety Pick+ award. The Volvo XC90 and XC90 Recharge both won Top Safety Pick+ status.

That gave Volvo something to crow about. In a press release, it said that as part of Volvo Cars’ vision that no one should be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo car, the company has put safety at the center of everything it does. “The Volvo XC90 continues to prove, year after year, that it is among the safest vehicles on the road,” said Åsa Haglund, head of Volvo Cars Safety Center.

The company noted that the testing protocols have been revised this year and that the new standard increases the amount of energy in the side collision test by 82 percent. 40 percent is attributable to the heavier battering ram, which now weighs 4,300 pounds, instead of the 3000 pound ram used in prior years. That added 40 percent more energy to each collision. In addition, the speed of the ram has been increased from 31 mph to 37 mph. That change adds another 42 percent more energy to the equation.

Under the new testing protocol, a car needs to achieve a “good” rating in the side impact test to qualify for the Top Safety Pick Plus rating. Lesser cars need only garner an “acceptable” rating to receive the standard rating of Top Safety Pick. Both the XC90 hybrid and the XC90 Recharge plug-in hybrid earned a Top Safety Pick+ award. Both cars also passed the new nighttime pedestrian safety provision added to the testing protocols this year.

In addition to its award-winning safety, the XC90 Recharge offers up to 35 miles of all-electric driving in Pure mode. Volvo Cars has made sustainability as important as safety, though, and has announced plans to sell only fully electric vehicles by 2030. It aims to become carbon neutral by 2040, the company says.

The Takeaway

Volvo has built its reputation on safety. Its cars from the ’60s and ’70s had all the grace and style of a shipping container (except for the delicious P1800) but did a great job of protecting the people inside in the event of an accident. Henry Ford II said safety doesn’t sell, but Volvo has proven over and over again that people are willing to pay premium prices for premium automobiles that make safety a top priority. It doesn’t hurt that the company’s current offerings are pleasing to the eye with svelte styling that is thoroughly contemporary.

Some well known models such as the Tesla Model 3 didn’t make the cut this year. Although, the Model Y was one of those 28 models that earned the coveted Plus rating. IIHS says it toughened it procedures because manufacturers had come so far in meeting the old standard that virtually every car tested got at least a Top Safety Pick rating. IIHS hopes the changes it instituted this year will spur the industry to design and build even better, safer cars in the future.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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