20 safety innovations that made a difference
ABS, airbags, ESP, TPMS: they all have become standard over the past 20 years and are as such taken for granted. Still, it took thousands of accidents, decades of research and billions of investment for them to become generalised. The following items are likely to find their way to your fleet in the coming years - insofar as they have not already done so, by law or by choice. The ultimate goal? To eliminate road casualties altogether.
This anti-lock braking system keeps the wheels from locking up and hence skidding during hard braking, making it possible to avoid obstacles during an emergency stop and keep control of the vehicle.
Airbags integrated in steering wheels, dashboards, doors, roof lining, seats and even underneath the steering column have undoubtedly been a perfect way to limit the gravity of crash impacts, saving thousands of lives.
Dynamic Stability Control, Electronic Stability Program… Different denominations for the system that avoids thousands of crashes and casualties by keeping cars on the road while their drivers wouldn’t have been able to.
When a crash is detected, an explosive charge immediately tightens the belt to remove the slack. This extra seatbelt "pre-" tension, pulls the body of the occupants firmly into their seats.
Seatbelt load limiters
In the event of a crash, the seatbelt exerts a great force on the body of the occupants to bring them to a stop. To spread this force, a load limiter allows the belt to extend in a controlled manner, maintaining a constant restraining force to absorb energy.
Tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
The safety performance of tyres can be dangerously undermined by incorrect inflation, yet how often do drivers actually check? TPMS signals to the driver as soon as a tyre needs inflating, cutting the danger of a blow out.
Lane Departure Warning
As soon as the car approaches the sides of the lane it is driving in, this camera-based system warns the driver so he can react and steer the car back to the middle of the lane. The latest systems even actively apply corrective steering.
It’s not only drivers who face road risk – pedestrians and cyclists are also at danger in traffic. The Volvo V40 and Land Rover Discovery Sport have an external airbag which deploys across the windscreen when the front bumper detects a pedestrian impact.
With up to 25% better projection than their halogen predecessors, LED headlights illuminate farther down the road, giving drivers better night vision. Matrix LED lights are the crème de la crème, outperforming dynamic HID lights by far whilst never blinding oncoming traffic.
Blind Spot Assist
This system indicates in the exterior mirror when cars or motorcycles are located in the blind spot. The most recent generation of systems even takes evasive action automatically in the event of danger, e.g. during lane changing.
Active (or adaptive) cruise control
A quite recent technology, this radar-based cruise control system maintains the preset speed, but also keeps a safe distance to the preceding vehicle, decelerating when necessary. When the road is clear again, it resumes the set speed.
Fatigue detection system
Using an array of sensors, some of today’s cars can detect driver fatigue and attention loss. The person behind the wheel is then prompted by a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster to take a break in order to avoid accidents.
Third brake light
Adding an extra brake light, placed higher than the other two, cars are more visible when braking, which limits the number of head-to-tail collisions.
Run on flat tyres
This technology allows you to continue your journey even when you have a flat tyre. Thanks to the reinforced tyre walls, the tyre keeps its rigidity, so you can reach a safe place or even a service centre to have it replaced.
Parking sensors and Rear-view camera
How familiar the ‘beep beep’ system has become in our cars…. Sensors warn for obstacles and help us park or reverse in the tightest of spaces. Today, the 360° camera-option is becoming increasingly popular.
Automated Parking Assist System
Even better is the automated parking system lots of cars offer today. You only have to put the car in reverse and make it move slowly, the steering wheel is operated automatically and parks the car for you. The latest systems even do the entire job at the press of a button.
Pre-Collision safety system
Upon heavy braking or when the ESP system intervenes and a collision is imminent, the car automatically pretensions the seatbelts, closes the windows and sunroof and activates the warning lights, to limit the consequences of a possible accident.
This ‘aeronautical’ technology allows the driver to keep his eyes on the road while driving. The essential information is projected on the windscreen area right in front of him.
In case of an accident with pyrotechnical explosions (seatbelt-tensioners or airbags being activated), this system automatically warns the emergency services and assures help will be on the way, even if the passengers are unconscious after the impact.
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
Radar sensors and cameras keep an eye on what’s going on in front of the vehicle. If an obstacle is detected and the driver does not react, the system first warns the driver. When a collision is imminent, the system activates the brakes to avoid a crash or at least reduce the impact speed.