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#138 of 147 What's Next in Auto Safety
Apr 12, 2007 (7:04 am)
Innovative advances will soon make driving safer than ever.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon
Electronic stability control (ESC), which selectively applies brakes to one or more wheels when a vehicle is about to slide out of control, is the most important safety advance since the safety belt. Recent studies have found that ESC could save as many as 10,000 lives a year if all cars had the system. Beginning in 2012, the federal government will require that all new cars come equipped with ESC.
On a smaller scale, backup cameras, another safety system that is becoming more common, can now help prevent accidents with children or objects hidden in a vehicle's rear blind zone.
The industry has gone a long way to make cars that can protect passengers in a crash, so now the trend is toward creating technologies for crash prevention. This will dictate the types of new safety systems we will see in mainstream cars. Most of the following have already turned up in limited use and the others appear to be just over the horizon.
Next-generation stability control. New ESC systems will go further in managing vehicle dynamics. One system, ESC II, is designed to provide slight steering input, together with selective braking and throttle reduction, to maintain control. Rear-wheel steering control through an active multilink suspension is also being looked at to work with next-generation ESC, providing optimum stability.
Pre-collision systems. Currently found on a few vehicles from Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, these sense a collision before it happens and take action to warn the driver and maximize the safety of all the car's occupants. It detects vehicles in front and can sound an alarm and display warning lights. The system then takes preventive steps such as fully charging the brakes and air bags, closing windows, adjusting seat positions for optimal air-bag effectiveness, and activating safety-belt pretensioners. An advanced pre-collision system in the Lexus LS600h L will detect pedestrians and animals on the road as well as other vehicles. And a camera will watch if the driver is not looking ahead at potential road hazards and sound an alert to get his attention if it senses an impending collision.
Adaptive cruise control. In addition to maintaining a set speed on the highway, this system can automatically maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. It does this by using radar to monitor vehicles in front, and operates the brakes or throttle to slow or accelerate the car as needed. We tested adaptive cruise control in a few vehicles and some of our drivers found the systems to be annoyingly abrupt in their operation. By 2009, Volvo will have a system that works in stop-and-go traffic and will be able to bring a car to a complete stop if necessary.
Lane-departure warning. Cameras that detect the stripes between lanes can determine if a sleepy or inattentive driver has let the vehicle wander off its intended path. The driver is then alerted with a chime and warning light. We tested a system on the Infiniti M35x and found that the chime went off constantly on minor roads. Many of our drivers found it so annoying they turned it off. It was more useful on the freeway.
Brake assist. This system senses when emergency braking is required by gauging how fast the pedal is depressed. When panic braking is detected, brake assist builds up boost to use the vehicle's maximum braking capability even if the driver doesn't push on the pedal hard enough, which might happen in some crash situations.
Blind-spot detection. Many accidents occur when a driver tries to change lanes without being aware that a vehicle is in a blind spot. Audi and Volvo currently have systems that use warning lights connected to cameras or radar on the outside mirrors to tell a driver when a vehicle is in or approaching a blind zone.
Night vision. These systems use infrared technology to allow a driver to see objects, animals, and people well beyond the reach of a car's headlights. We've found them to be useful in some situations, but not ideal. New systems by BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus might provide a greater range. In the past, we found these systems to be distracting; we hope that the new ones will be less so.
Rollover mitigation. Roll sensors augment stability control and determine if the vehicle is tipping up on two wheels. If an impending rollover is detected, stability control applies selective braking to suppress the roll motion. If that fails, curtain air bags are deployed and stay inflated for about six seconds to protect occupants from possible impact and to help keep them from being ejected.
Active head restraints. This technology moves the restraints behind a person's head forward during a collision to help absorb energy and prevent whiplash injuries. Neck injuries are the most common kind reported in auto crashes and tests have shown that good head restraints, especially active ones, are effective in preventing them.
Voice recognition. These systems already exist in some higher-end vehicles, where you can use them to control the climate, audio, cell-phone, and navigation systems. Early versions were cumbersome to use and had difficulties recognizing voice commands, but the technology has made great strides. Some voice-recognition systems are now used with Bluetooth technology, which pairs up your cellular phone to the car's audio system. Using voice commands instead of buttons, knobs, and touch screens should reduce driver distraction, which could in turn reduce accidents.
Intelligent networks. Tomorrow's cars will have high-speed data networks that allow communication between various automotive systems and other vehicles. Vehicles will be able to send warnings about hazards or potential accidents on the road. For example, if a driver loses control, the systems needed to stabilize the car will be activated and the nearby cars will be warned. In turn, these cars might activate their pre-collision systems or apply braking to avoid an accident.
#139 of 147 Re: What's Next in Auto Safety [rockylee]
Apr 12, 2007 (7:21 am)
Pretty soon the cars won't need drivers at all.
#140 of 147 Re: What's Next in Auto Safety [nippononly]
Apr 12, 2007 (7:30 am)
Pretty soon the cars won't need drivers at all.
I heard about something like that, I think its called a train (or maybe a bus)
#141 of 147 Re: What's Next in Auto Safety [rockylee]
Apr 12, 2007 (7:47 am)
Well, that's all well and good Rocky, but the MB is missing a VERY IMPORTANT new device that I'm sure Micky Waltrip wishes he'd had:
Volvo pioneers sleep detection system
Volvo is claiming a world first with a safety device that can monitor whether a driver is falling asleep at the wheel.
The Driver Alert system uses a camera installed between the windscreen and the rear view mirror, with sensors and a processor, to constantly monitor the distance between the car and the road markings.
#142 of 147 Re: What's Next in Auto Safety [rorr]
Apr 12, 2007 (8:07 am)
The vehicle is monitoring lane position. This is similar to the Infiniti lane departure warning system introduced 2 years ago.
The Volvo system is actually overkill for what is doing. They could get the same information from steering entropy like the standard deviation of steering wheel angle. This can also help with distracted driver detection systems.
All of the systems use similar sensing technology, its about sensor fusion and creating algorithms that optimize the data from each sensor.
I love this stuff - well working on it, I don't want something that drives for me.
#143 of 147 Re: What's Next in Auto Safety [rorr]
Apr 12, 2007 (8:23 pm)
Well rorr, it's gadgetology at it's best.
#144 of 147 A few new options
Apr 13, 2007 (7:37 pm)
Newer cars will have "Fingerprint Readers" in order to start the car. You will need to hold your finger up to a little sensor on the dash before you can turn on the car.
I have seen this installed aftermarket on a car. You will only need to get close enough to the car and the Prox Key will automatically unlock the vehicle. Kinda like the "Speedpass" that Mobil has. This can also be used to eliminate the need for a key to start the vehicle, just by having the Prox Key with you in the vehicle you will be able to have Push Button Starters.
Multi-Camera Parking Systems
Taking the rear back up camera to another level, have smaller camera's mounted near the for corners (or wheel wells) and you will be able to access them via the nav system screen for easier parking in tight spaces. You can also use this feature if you hit something on the highway (or a nasty pothole) you will be able to check your tire from inside. This can also be used in conjuction with a PVBB (Personal Vehicle Black Box (see below)) to have a instant replay of sorts for insurance companies in the event of an accident.
PVBB - Personal Vehicle Black Box
This little item can be used in the event of a accident for not only insurance companies, but also personal. Example, you are parked in a parking garage and someone backs into your vehicle. There is quite a bit of damage, not to worry, with the camera's from above, you will be able to see who hit your vehicle and use this as evidence if need be. The PVBB will also keep track of speed, RPM's, etc, etc., this way a parent would be able to check on a child. Police would also be able to access this information in the event of an traffic violation.
That's all I have for now, let the bee's nest commence stirring.
#145 of 147 Re: A few new options [odie6l]
Apr 14, 2007 (7:09 am)
PVBB - Personal Vehicle Black Box have been in vehicles since the mid-90s (OBD-II collects most of that info and stores it anyway). There are few things that plug into the OBD-II port so you can track your kids' driving habbits (or just raise kids you can trust, which might be more challenging then just spying on them).
Back-up cams are being driven by safety organaztions who don't like it when mom backs over her kids with some huge SUV. Now they are trinkling down (the Prius has it, among others). The new Tundra has a back up cam that is supposed to help you line up your trailer hitch to connect a trailer.
#146 of 147 Re: A few new options [lilengineerboy]
Apr 14, 2007 (7:35 pm)
I believe the Prius also comes with a proximity key.
#147 of 147 Re: A few new options [john_324]
Apr 15, 2007 (3:28 pm)
It does with the technology package, but so many cars offer a proximity key now that the novelty has worn off. It was fun to watch my MIL, used to the proximity key in her Prius, struggle with why the door didn't unlock for her on an early 90s Honda, and also that the car wasn't going to do much without the key in the ignition.
"New Technology" doesn't stay new very long.