Fusion's Kashmir Hill recently contacted Volvo about a (somewhat disturbing) YouTube video purporting to show a test of a Volvo with auto-braking capabilities that ends up running into several pedestrians watching the test. Volvo's response might make the problem worse.
A spokesperson for the car maker told Fusion that the video appears to be testing a Volvo XC60's auto-braking technology, which comes standard in that model. This technology, called City Safety, is designed to identify other cars and objects in front of the car and activate the brakes when traveling below 30 miles per hour, preventing fender benders when cars are in stop-and-go traffic, for example.
But City Safety does not include a "pedestrian detection functionality," which is sold separately, the spokesperson told Fusion. The Fusion report also pointed out that the IEEE has said that pedestrian detection costs about $3,000.
Volvo also claimed that the pedestrian detection feature might not have even worked in the test shown in the video, nor would the City Safety feature – the driver appeared to have been "actively accelerating," which would override the auto-brake features. For what it's worth, the YouTube video description says the driver forgot to even turn on the City Safety feature.
According to Fusion, Volvo strongly discouraged people from standing in front of cars to see if they will stop on their own before hitting them. I can't believe this needs to be repeated. And in case you're wondering, the YouTube video description also says the two people who were hit by the car "were bruised but are ok."
So the accident may not have been Volvo's fault, but the aftermath appears to have revealed an embarrassing oversight. This case will likely force Volvo to reconsider its approach to assisted braking, and any self-driving technology in general. I'm sure Volvo will hear some backlash when people find out that its standard auto-brake technology stops for other cars, but that it charges extra for customers who don't want to run into pedestrians.