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A 40-Ton Volvo Semi’s Emergency Brake Test Is Unnerving to Watch

Automatic safety systems sure can jam on the brakes.

Volvo has long touted a lofty goal of reaching zero collisions involving its vehicles. It steps up from earlier efforts to make its cars and trucks as safe as possible in crashes to now trying to avoid them altogether. The company’s Collision Warning system with Emergency Brake is a part of this goal, and seeing it in action on a semi-truck is quite an intense experience.

The company recently published a video of a truck and trailer fully loaded to a gross combined weight of 40 tons. The vehicle was charged with testing Volvo’s collision warning system to the point of engaging the emergency braking response, and it did not disappoint. Similar systems are being rolled out across the industry, even on motorcycles, and aim to prevent rear-end crashes before they happen.

As the truck rapidly gains upon a stationary car, the truck does not seem to slow down until the absolute last second. However, with the benefit of ABS and the quick reaction of Volvo’s electronics, the nose dives and the tires barely squeal as the truck somehow comes to a stop within a foot of the vehicle in front.  

The view from inside the cab is even better. The heads-up display flashes desperately and a siren blares with such intensity you’d be almost certain that some sort of missile impact was imminent. With no response felt from the driver, the brakes are engaged at maximum, hauling the truck to a stop in a truly implausible distance. The cab lurches forward violently, and you can almost feel the bile rise in your throat as the car appears to disappear beneath the windscreen. However, all is well, and the truck once again stops in time. 

Notably, the collision warning system is able to deal with both stationary cars and slow-moving traffic ahead. Earlier videos published by Volvo in 2019 show trucks stopping from what appear to be lower speeds, and subsequently with more distance to the car in front. 

The older footage doesn’t generate the same visceral, grit-your-teeth-and-hold-on response where a crash seems to be an imminent certainty. Indeed, the latest video suggests that Volvo’s collision warning and braking system has been significantly improved in the intervening years. 

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and that certainly rings true when it comes to automobile crashes. Volvo’s safety system is clearly capable of pulling drivers out of some nasty situations, as its nerve-wracking video ably demonstrates. 

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