Stepping inside the new Volvo FM, the first thing that strikes you is how much more spacious it is. A raised A-pillar gives a whole extra cubic metre to the cab’s interior, with more room for practical essentials such as storage. But it also adds to the feeling of airiness and lets drivers move around more freely. “It makes a real difference when you can fully stretch your arms above you. Or to move about the cab easily, even with a cup of coffee in one hand. It gives you a sense of freedom – a real feeling of ‘wow!’” says Carina Byström.
We wanted to make sure that everything is in view and easy reach from the driver’s seat.
Carina Byström led the redesign of the new cab interior of the Volvo FM – a job which started in Volvo Trucks Design Studio in Gothenburg almost five years ago and has been kept highly secret until now. From the start, Carina and her team were focused on designing the new cab around the needs of drivers. The new Volvo FM had to be both extremely practical and comfortable, since it’s not just a tool and a workplace – but also somewhere to recharge and gather strength. The design strategy therefore centred around the human body, placing everything within easy reach of the driver.
“Workpod” was a concept that Carina and her Volvo Trucks design team had as a key source of inspiration for their work. “As a driver, you do all kinds of tasks in your Volvo FM cab – driving, admin, sometimes taking calls, looking up info or eating lunch, so the space has to be versatile. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that everything is in view and easy reach from the driver’s seat,” Carina explains.
Apart from the spaciousness, another thing that’s immediately striking about the new Volvo FM is the cab’s exceptional visibility. The new cab features bigger and lower windows, giving a much broader field of vision as well as new rear-view mirrors and a passenger corner camera. Better direct vision from the cab has been shown to directly cut driver’s reaction times. And since Volvo FM drivers often need to navigate tight spaces or busy city streets, direct vision is vital.
But being fully focused and responsive as a driver is not only about seeing things better, it’s also about minimising distractions. And that’s something that Carina and her colleagues in the design team worked hard to tackle in the new Volvo FM. The new cab includes a new dashboard, with extra storage and a 12-inch high-resolution instrument display and an optional 9-inch touch-screen side display for infotainment, navigation support, transport information and camera monitoring.
“For the past decade, there’s a sense that we’ve been adding information and distractions to our lives and to the driving environment. But it’s hard to process all that information. We saw our chance to break that trend. This redesign was a real opportunity to strip things down to the essentials, and to prioritise what you are seeing and when. It also allows you to personalise the display according to your own needs,” Carina says.
That means, for example, that the number of icons in the instrument cluster are reduced and key signals and warnings in the cluster are reinforced with a background halo light. The light changes from an ambient white colour to green when an action is underway, such as when the turn signal is activated. It turns amber, to warn the driver of an issue and red to indicate that there is a serious issue and the truck should be stopped.
Another of the design team’s goals was to give Volvo FM drivers uninterrupted access to the tools they need. The new touch-screen on the side display can be accessed through voice control or through intuitively positioned buttons on the steering wheel.
“We want the driver to focus on the road and that’s why the display can be controlled in multiple ways,” Carina says.
For drivers, the cab is also a place to recharge. Behind the driver’s seat, the new living area of the Volvo FM has been upgraded for comfort. The new sleeper cab’s bed has been raised by 17 cm, with extra storage both above and below. In addition, the cab’s comfort has been further enhanced through reinforced insulation to keep out cold, heat and noise.
The floor is now flatter, reinforced and outfitted with specially designed, high-grip mats, to give drivers an extra-steady footing, both inside the cab and when stepping into the vehicle. Also, a new, slimmer, ergonomically-designed I-Shift, make transitions from the seat to the bed easier.
Carina Byström explains that, starting out, she and her colleagues wanted every part of the design to fit together seamlessly. That means that there are some “wow factors” in the vehicle, but also smart solutions that make life better but that you might not notice right away. For example, there are LED panels built into in the compartment dividers. “It’s a relatively small detail, but we think drivers will appreciate it. After all, the cab is a place where you spend a lot of time as a driver, so it’s nice to find the living area restful and a bit cozy.”
Carina emphasizes that one of the keys to success of the redesign of the Volvo FM, was access to the broad range of experts at Volvo Trucks. The Volvo FM design team worked directly with ergonomic experts, specialists on the human-machine interface and even material analysts that tested and retested the grip of the new door mat, for example, so that drivers would get a solid footing when entering the cab. “In a strong design, all these different elements must come together to create a harmonious working and living environment”.
Wolverine on the road
Designers at Volvo Trucks often take their inspiration directly from nature in northern Sweden. For the Volvo FM, one source of inspiration was the wolverine, a stocky and muscular carnivore that roams the wild areas of the far North. Versatile and ready for any challenge, the animal packs a punch despite its smaller size – often taking on much bigger animals, even full-sized bears.
Robust and versatile
“A Volvo FM can be a fire truck, a gravel truck or a refuse truck, and the drivers’ work plays an important role in society – they are really everyday heroes. So, we wanted the design of the truck to be build on robust lines and features, to suit a variety of uses and to interact with the outside world in a positive way.”
The new Volvo FM is designed around human-machine interaction. “There is a new intelligence to the truck and part of our work was to make sure that all the systems connected and interacted seamlessly in every situation.”