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Car Makers Boost Safety Features

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Cadillac XTS (US preproduction)Auto safety features are being highlighted at this year’s L.A. Auto Show in order to prevent car accidents, according to a recent report by Rosanna Xia of the Los Angeles Times. For example, she writes, the new Ford “Explorer features inflatable seat belts — a first in the industry — designed to lessen chest and neck injuries.”

Xia quotes Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell, describing Cadillac’s new XTS’s virtual bumper feature:

‘For example, in a dark, low-speed place — like a parking garage with columns and pillars,’ Caldwell said. ‘If you’re about to hit something, behind you or in front of you, the virtual bumper will alert the driver and apply full braking up to 25 mph.’

The XTS also offers a collision mitigation braking system that, simply put, understands and interprets the pressure the driver applies to the brake. So if the system feels a panicked stomp, the electronic brakes will intervene and help avoid nearby objects detected by sensors placed 360-degrees around the car.

These sensors and cameras can also detect if cyclists or pedestrians are approaching from the side. The system alerts the driver of this side traffic by vibrating the seat cushion on the corresponding side.

The XTS also added an airbag between the driver and the passenger seat, for a total of 10 airbags. The new Scion iQ, the world’s smallest four-seat car, has the most airbags in the industry, totally 11, with the addition of a rear-window airbag, an industry first.

Volvo, Xia reports, is working on a concept called Platooning, in which your car will drive “to the tune of the car ahead,” according to Volvo spokesman James Hope. “This increases efficiency and safety — cars can drive closer together safely,” he said.

Xia notes that Cadillac already offers a speed-range adaptive cruise control, in which a driver can set a following distance from the car in front of him or her, a bonus in stop-and-go traffic and on crowded highways.

And an article by Dustin Walsh for Crain’s Detroit Business says that the next generation of cars will be the safest, most technologically savvy, and fuel-efficient cars on the road.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is in talks about advanced safety systems to keep vehicles from impending accidents and drivers free from injuries, Walsh reports. He goes on to say:

The upgrades are at a moderate cost. Sean McAlinden, chief economist for Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research, predicts new technologies will add $6,800 to the price of a car in coming years. John DeCicco, senior lecturer in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, estimates the regulations will add an additional $3,100 to the vehicle.

Walsh writes that the following technologies are planned to come to market by 2012, but he says it is not a comprehensive list by auto technology or by company, but rather a cross-section:

Interior lighting will feature LED bulbs (which are much longer-lasting and energy-efficient) instead of incandescent ones, and cars will have only LED lighting by 2018, according to a prediction by Ralf Meyer-Wendt, manager of lighting research and development at Federal-Mogul Corp. And the ambient lighting will turn red or orange when a driver starts to drive faster or more aggressively, to keep the driver more alert. Lights might turn to a soothing blue when a driver is stuck in traffic.

Cars will contain more steel, as opposed to aluminum, because steel is stronger. Stricter safety regulations in the last decade forced automakers to return to steel, according to the Steel Market Development Institute.

“Steels need to be most effective at a low weight,” said Ron Krupitzer, vice president of the automotive market for the American Iron and Steel Institute. And, beyond 2016, steelmakers will reduce steel’s mass by another 10%.

NHTSA is urging automakers to create new systems to prevent car accidents caused by distracted driving, in light of the increase in interactive technologies in the dashboard’s center. Companies such as TRW Automotive, Inc., have developed lane-assist systems to keep vehicles from veering out of lane. Emergency braking and audible warning systems to prevent crashes will be prevalent on cars by 2016.

Denso International America, Inc.’s crash avoidance system, in development, keeps constant tabs on all nearby cars and alerts the driver of any potential hazards, such as cars entering an intersection. Denso is also testing its vehicle-to-infrastructure system that lets a driver know when a traffic light is about to change. It also suggests a speed the driver should drive at in order to get as many green lights as possible.

Image by skinnylawyer (Rachel So), used under its Creative Commons license.


One Response to “Car Makers Boost Safety Features”


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Sally from Denver, Colorado

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