The New Volvo S80's Blind Spot Detector

I commuted into the office today in the new 2007 Volvo S80. This is an important redesign for Volvo, and because it’s the company’s flagship, it’s loaded with some fancy safety equipment. This morning’s short jaunt on Interstate 90/94 in Chicago proved that one of them, the Blind Spot Information System, certainly lives up to its name.

There are three parts to the system — a $595 stand-alone option — that drivers will notice. One is the indicator itself, a translucent square at the bottom corner of each front window, right above the tweeter for the sound system. The device that registers if a car is in your blind spot is a camera mounted right next to the side mirror, and the best part is the simple-to-turn-on-and-off button on the center stack that shuts the traffic-nanny off.

I had the sucker on all morning, and I thought in stop-and-go rush-hour traffic an orange light illuminating every time someone was in my blind spot would be annoying, but the color and intensity, at least in daylight, doesn’t steal attention away from the road. I thought for sure with its location in the corner of my vision it would do just that, but it was only noticeable when I glanced in its direction. The driver’s side was more noticeable than the passenger side light, however, so I must have registered it without really paying attention. Still, it is subtle.

I didn’t really need to use the BLIS during my drive, though. The side mirrors and my experience as a driver meant I didn’t really need the system, but I can see how, on a longer drive with more fast-moving traffic, a light would definitely stop me from making an absent-minded move. That would be worth the $595 price tag to save me from feeling stupid in such a situation. 

This morning, the only thing I wished the car had was a paint gun to flag the woman in the Chevy Malibu who had to actually turn her car about 60 degrees to get it wedged into the small gap in front of me to cut me off. She then proceeded to cut someone off in another lane. A few miles later she was about 10 car lengths ahead of me. Can Volvo do anything about that? I’d pay double.

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