Commentary

SUVs getting safer, too?

In the past I’ve noted that the crossover SUV is the fastest growing auto segment. This latest SUV incarnation is more car than truck, and so it offers higher fuel efficiency. But people also frequently criticize SUVs on safety grounds, and the crossover’s lower center of gravity helps to answer those worries, too. Now Volvo takes safety a step further with its SUV: [The] mid-size XC90 has a stability enhancing system designed to prevent what many sport-ute owners fear the most: a rollover, prompted by unusually rapid or severe body lean. Volvo calls its Roll Stability Control system a world first. Developed by Volvo and its owner, Ford Motor, the system uses gyroscopic sensors to register the XC90’s roll speed and roll angle. Using that information, the roll-over risk is instantly calculated and the vehicle’s Dynamic Stability and Traction Control anti-skid system is activated. It reduces engine power and brakes one or more wheels until stability is regained. One really must be a sloppy driver to get into trouble with an XC90. Since industry-watchers expect the number of crossover models to accelerate even more, it will be interesting to see how SUVs evolve. In 10 years there might not be many bulky, rollover-prone SUVs to gripe about.

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.