Volvo is taking huge steps in its bid to eliminate fatalities in its cars by the end of the decade – in addition to instituting a blanket 180 km/h speed limit on all its cars in 2020, it will also install cameras in all its cars in a bid to prevent drunk and distracted driving.

The company will use these cameras as well as other sensors to enable the car to monitor the driver for any dangerous behaviour that can cause an accident involving serious injury and death. These include a complete lack of steering input and eyes being closed or off the road for extended periods of time, as well as extreme weaving across lanes and excessively slow reaction times.

If the driver does not respond to warning signals, the car could then intervene, for example, by limiting the speed, alerting the Volvo on Call assistance service and, finally, actively slowing down and parking safely. Volvo says that such a driver monitoring system is an important part of allowing the car to actively make decisions to help avoid potentially fatal accidents.

According to Gothenburg, intoxication and distraction are the main gaps in Volvo’s quest for zero deaths, together with speeding – which is why the company is going beyond vehicle safety and expanding its focus on driver behaviour as well. Figures from the United States’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that in the US alone, almost 30% of all traffic fatalities in 2017 involved intoxicated drivers.

“When it comes to safety, our aim is to avoid accidents altogether rather than limit the impact when an accident is imminent and unavoidable,” said senior vice president of research and development Henrik Green. “In this case, cameras will monitor for behaviour that may lead to serious injury or death.”

The cameras will be introduced starting with models on the next-generation SPA2 platform in the early 2020s, with details of the exact amount of cameras and their positioning in the interior to be revealed at a later stage. Volvo knows that people may be unsettled by the idea of being monitored, so the company wants to start a conversation on whether carmakers have the right or even the obligation to install such technology.

“There are many accidents that occur as a result of intoxicated drivers,” said its professor on driver behaviour Trent Victor. “Some people still believe that they can drive after having had a drink, and that this will not affect their capabilities. We want to ensure that people are not put in danger as a result of intoxication.”