As China emerges from decades of post-Mao suffering into what will soon become world’s biggest superpower, it’s putting several thousand more cars on its roads every single day. And that means road deaths of surged.

In 2003, more than 110,000 were killed on Chinese highways, although the figure has dropped slightly in the last two years.

In the hope of helping the slight downward trend become more significant, Volvo has set up a traffic accident research centre in China. Volvo’s in-house traffic accident research function is already one of the best-developed in the automotive industry. From its centre in Gothenburg, Sweden plus other local operations in the USA and Thailand, Volvo has built up a database of information containing details of 40,000 accidents involving more than 50,000 people.

Volov CEO Fredrik Arp said: “Our knowledge about what actually happens when the vehicle and its occupants are in a collision has been a great asset in our product development over the decades. In recent years we have focused on what happens during the final few seconds before the accident actually takes place. This has created better potential for devising preventive systems that help our customers avoid accidents in the first place”.

Volvo – long at the forefront of safety technology development in the automotive industry –has introduced such devices as deformable steering wheel, three-point safety belt. WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System), SIPS (side impact protection system) and ESP electronic stability enhancement system.

The Swedish manufacturer will cooperate with local organisations and universities to analyse Chinese accident data and come up with new ways to make roads safer.