Starting in the early 2020s, all Volvo cars will be equipped with safety systems that monitor and react to dangerous driving behavior. The Swedish automaker will install driver-facing cameras and sensors that detect when a driver is intoxicated, distracted, or driving erratically for any other reason. If a person’s eye movements or driving patterns prompt the safety mechanism, the car will first issue a flashing and beeping warning signal. If the driver continues to behave dangerously, a live assistant will contact them through the vehicle and the car will slow down. And if that fails, the Volvo will alert emergency services and safely pull itself over.
Racing in the wrong direction. Much of the auto industry competes in a race to make the speediest vehicles, as ‘faster’ is often equated with ‘better’. Maserati is maintaining its reputation with its new 181 mph top speed SUV, while the Tesla Model S’s ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 2.4 seconds is a bragging point for the brand. Yet this safety system from Volvo, along with its recent move to limit its vehicles’ top speed, signals ‘innovation in reverse’ (more on that here). Before, automakers competed to be the fastest; now, they’re competing to be the slowest! For your brand, could you explore not only rejecting a long-held industry assumption or trend, but actually pursuing the opposite? Might this serve a core customer need (like safety) better?
Forgiveness and accountability, by design. No number of Mothers Against Drunk Driving programs or don’t-text-and-drive campaigns can totally eradicate human irresponsibility. That’s where ‘forgiving’ systems like Volvo’s come in. Rather than just covering its own ass with liability disclaimers, Volvo is covering its customers’ asses by making sure the consequences of their mistakes aren’t fully realized. In theory, the system is forgiving right up to the point where it needs to hold the driver accountable. Deciding where this line is drawn is a HUGE responsibility for any brand and not to be taken lightly. In 2019, a brand isn’t just a servant to its customer’s base needs. Today, you better have their best interests at heart. Are you focused on the balance between holding your customers accountable and helping them improve their behavior?