Monday, January 21, 2013

Car Saftey Technology

Mercedes-Benz wrong-way alert technology

To me, car safety technology is one of the most important features I look at when vehicle shopping.

Since my wife and baby were in a car accident several years ago, where the other driver shot out into traffic without looking both right and left, I've become a huge safety advocate. The car they were driving was totaled when the other car t-boned it, setting off the front airbags (it was a while ago, so no side curtain or side seat airbags). The car was not equipped with a sensor in the front passenger seat, so the airbag on that side deployed. Stupidly, the airbag was positioned so it smashed into the windshield, sending the glass spraying throughout the cabin of the car.

For those of you who don't know, in most collisions where a windshield breaks, the safety film on the glass actually holds all of the shards of glass in place. After that car accident, my wife found shards of glass sitting on our baby's neck. They both were fortunate enough to not be seriously injured in the accident, one that could easily have been much worse.

Back when Volvo first developed the seat belt, the Swedish automaker decided to broadcast the results of crash tests using a dummy strapped in with a seat belt and one that did not have one. The results, of course, were sobering. Volvo went one step further and broadcast the video on national television in the United States, causing an uproar among car owners. Back then, the Big Three tried to accuse Volvo of causing unnecessary panic in the public, among other things. Fortunately, most automakers today have started to realize the value of safety technology, to one extent or another.

Mercedes-Benz is one of the leaders in safety tech (Volvo is still one, along with BMW, the VW group and others). Safety technology often is introduced near the top of the car food chain on models like the Mercedes S-Class or the BMW 7 Series, like the infrared and night vision technologies available on those cars Mercedes has announced the new S-Class and E-Class will both be outfitted with a system that will issue audible and visual warnings to drivers if they are traveling the wrong way on a road or freeway entrance. Sometimes people get turned around, especially in confusing downtown areas, and they don't see the "Wrong Way" signs. The car is outfitted with cameras that recognize such signs, literally reading them.

Self-driving cars are becoming more of a reality, which I view as just another piece of safety technology. Many of these cars will likely just enhance a driver's performance, stepping in when a driver doesn't react to an obstacle in time. There are quite a few cars on the market today that detect an impending collision and move the brake pads so they are almost touching the rotors, give the driver an audible and visual warning about the impending impact or even stop the car for the driver. Self-driving cars and other safety technology also means elderly drivers and those with medical conditions that impair their senses can still get around, but without putting everyone on the roads (and unfortunately sidewalks) at risk. I only see good in this technology.