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Future of Automobiles: Safety Technologies

As Sydney and other major urban centres experience deterioration in traffic conditions, not to mention an increase in inner-city car volume, undoubtedly with a corresponding increase in vehicle related accidents, the issue of car safety becomes more imperative. Thankfully recent developments in electronic vehicle safety orientated technologies have revolutionized the way consumers, and large fleet operators, like car rental companies in Sydney, relate to their vehicles. The following article highlights some of the major developments in vehicular safety systems during recent years, and how they will continue to be improved. All technological systems mentioned either are available commercially or very soon will be:
  • Next-generation stability control – Newer ESC systems will improve management of vehicle dynamics to maintain/increase control. For instance, one system, ESC II, is designed to provide slight steering input, together with selective braking and throttle reduction in order to maintain control of vehicle stability in the event of loss of vehicular control.
  • Curtain air bags – Curtain airbags, in the event of a crash, deploy across the windows to protect passenger heads in both front and rear seats. If the system detects the vehicle is beginning to roll over it will automatically deploy a safety canopy system; essentially side-curtain air bags to shield occupants from being ejected during the roll, or from suffering injury from flying debris.
  • Pre-collision systems – This system is capable of sensing a collision before it happens, and will take steps to ensure the safety the safety of the driver and passengers.
  • Adaptive cruise control – Adaptive cruise control improves on the original technology by not only maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead but also using radar to monitor to monitor vehicles in front, operating both the brakes and throttle as necessary.
  • Lane-departure warning – Cameras that detect the stripes between lanes can determine if a sleepy or inattentive driver has let the vehicle drift between lanes and off their intended path. The driver is then alerted to the danger by an audio cue, and a warning light. Probably useful on the freeway, but some testing has found that most drivers just found it so annoying they turned it off.
  • Brake-assist – This system senses when emergency braking is required by gauging how fast the pedal is depressed. If panic breaking is detected, the brake assist builds up boost to use the vehicle’s maximum braking capabilities even if the pedal is not pushed hard enough, which happens in some crash situations.
  • Blind-spot detection – Led by Volvo and Audi, these systems have warning lights connected to an external radar or cameras that make the driver aware if a vehicle is in, or approaching a blind zone.
  • Traction control – Helps keep two-wheel-drive cars moving in slippery conditions by controlling the brake pressure and engine power to the wheels.
  • Rollover mitigation – Roll sensors augment stability control and determine if the vehicle is rolling onto two wheels. If a rollover is detected it will attempt to suppress the motion by selective braking. Failing this curtain air bags are deployed, as mentioned previously in the case of a roll.
  • Voice Recognition – Has the potential to reduce driver distraction by enabling voice commanded climate, audio, mobile and navigation systems.
Cars that see, talk and potentially save lives are becoming a reality. The devices and systems listed above are by no means a complete list of all up and coming electronic crash-avoidance technology but instead provide an overview of what the near future is likely to hold in terms of vehicular safety. For both consumer and manufacturer vehicle safety will continue to be an imperative factor in developmental research, and therefore will play an important role when deciding fleet makeup for large fleet customers such as car rental operators, in Sydney, as well as the personal consumer.
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