10 life-saving devices in cars

By CARSIFU | 26 July 2015

The highest price we pay for car crashes is the loss of human lives, so it is no wonder that automobile manufacturers invest heavily in safety technologies that can save lives. As high-tech as these technologies are, they are not built to handle drunk driving and speeding, running the red light, fatigue or distracted driving.

Nevertheless, some safety technologies can be invaluable if used responsibly.

Mercedes-Benz Malaysia president and chief executive officer Roland Folger and Volkswagen Group Malaysia dealer training management manager Ian Rashid MacQuistan talk about the top 10 picks on some of the safety equipment and technologies used in their cars today.


1 Pre-safe

In the event of potential collision due to emergency brake application, skidding and heavy oversteer or understeer, PRE-SAFE prepares passengers for collision by pre-tensioning the safety belt tensioners while passenger seats and backrests are moved into a safe position and, in addition, closes the sunroof (provided one is fitted and open).

According to Folger, it operates on the logical assumption that accidents often follow after emergency braking.


2 Active Blind Spot Assist

No one can see what is going on behind their back. This limitation has always been compensated for vehicles by means of rear-view and exterior mirrors.

“These mirrors are unable to cover blind spots,” said Folger, adding that yearly, around 9,500 serious road accidents in Germany were caused by motorists who fail to observe the traffic behind when changing lanes or overtaking.

With this system, when another vehicle moving in a parallel lane is detected in the exterior mirror’s blind spot, it alerts the driver via a flashing red warning signal in the glass of the exterior mirror and a warning tone as well when the driver indicates to change lane.


3 Cornering light

The bi-xenon headlights with dynamic cornering light provide up to 90% better illumination of corners and turn-off area, Ian said.

Above a speed of approximately 15 km/h, headlight beams follow the steering angle of the vehicle’s steering wheel with the aid of small servomotors in the headlight units.

The improved visibility enables obstacles to be detected earlier, and the driver gains additional reaction time.


4 Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

Skidding is one of the major causes of accidents, said Ian.

It tends to happen in an emergency when the driver brakes heavily on a slippery road surface or in a bid to avoid an obstacle. The wheels lock and the car skids out of control.

But anti-lock braking system gives the driver more control of the wheel while braking hard and allowing the driver to steer round away from obstacle.

5 Isofix System

Studies have shown many child car seats are not fitted properly.

With Isofix, securing a child’s car seat properly was much easier, reducing the risk of injury in an accident, said Ian.

Isofix is an international standard designed to ensure a child’s car seat is fitted easily and securely.

The Isofix child seat fixes directly into compatible fittings in the car, creating a secure link with no need to use the adult seatbelts.

6 Night View Assist Plus

Night View Assist shows the road ahead on a display in the instrument cluster, giving the driver a clear, long distance view of the road, Folger said.

7 Attention Assist

Attention Assist observes the driver’s behaviour and, at the start of every trip, produces an individual driver profile that is then continuously compared with current sensor data, Folger said.

It then detects the inattentiveness and drowsiness and notifies drivers of their current state of fatigue and the driving time since the last break, and indicates nearby rest areas in the navigation system.

Item 4Attention AssistAttention Assist observes the driver’s behaviour and, at the start of every trip, produces an individual driver profile that is then continuously compared with current sensor data, Folger said.


8 Electronic Stability Programme (ESP)

This system helps to reduce skidding risks with the help of a yaw velocity sensor. It monitors the vehicle’s movement around its vertical axis continuously, comparing the measured actual value with the reference value resulting from the driver’s steering input and vehicle’s speed.

As soon as the vehicle deviates from this ideal line, ESP intervenes to stabilise the vehicle by braking individual wheels and adjusting the engine output accordingly.

Folger says, according to estimates made as early as 2008 by German Insurance Association, if all cars had been fitted with such a stability programme, around 37,000 accidents resulting in injuries and 1,100 accidents resulting in deaths each year in Germany could have been avoided or their severity reduced.


9 Airbags

Airbags combine with seat belts to reduce the risk of severe head and chest injuries during a collision.

If crash sensors detect an impact, an airbag inflates within 30 to 40 milliseconds.

When inflated, these airbags cushion the head and upper body and distribute the resulting loads over as large an area as possible.

However, Ian said that optimum protection could be achieved if the occupants were properly wearing their seat belts, as the airbags and the seat belt tensioners, together form a finely tuned safety system. In addition to front airbags, side and head airbag systems are also available.
10 Seat belts

Seat belts help to restrain vehicle occupants as quickly as possible in the event of an accident, and so, must be worn tightly.

To compensate any slack in the seat belt, the pyrotechnic belt tensioners will tighten the belt on impact.

Belt tensioners are triggered by a gas generator. When triggered, the tensioners pre-tension the belt strap making it tighter to the body and the loading on the body is distributed evenly across the full restraint process, thereby reducing the risk of injury.

One cannot be too careful

As the saying goes, safety is not a gadget but a state of mind. Although the human race can be proud of how far automotive technology has progressed, this writer still smiles every morning when he turns the ignition and hears his over two-decade-old vehicle springs to life.

With the rising cost of living and the environmental impact of manufacturing new automobiles, cars with older safety technology still have many years of life in them, provided the owners maintain a positive frame of mind on the road, together with keeping the car in tip-top condition.

Regardless of whether you drive a bulletproof car or a humble old car, waking fresh every day and not rushing to get to point A from point B is a good practice to begin with.

Put the key into the ignition with a smile. Think of your loved ones – parents, wife, child, or even your dog or cat. Knowing that you need to get home safely to them makes a world of difference between considerate driving and driving recklessly.

And when one put the pedal to the metal, do follow the speed limit – this is the one rule that is not made to be broken.

Rules are made for our safety, and the safety of other road users. This is especially true in housing areas or high traffic areas.

Also, despite what technology can do, it is no match for a watchful eye.

Look one more time, just in case, if there is someone on our left or right before we turn that steering. Keeping alert and constantly scan all the side and rearview mirrors to know what is around us. Also give enough warning to other road users of your intention to turn or change lanes would help too.

Practising periodic checks of the turn indicators and brake lights will ensure that they are in working condition.

Apart from that, being sensitive to the weather and the behaviour of other road users will help too. When I see many motorcyclists and pedestrians or on a rainy day, I drive more cautiously. Being safe has nothing to do with ceramic brake discs or rain sensors.

It has more to do with the safe distance you keep from the vehicle ahead to be able to stop when needed, which is affected with the speed you are driving at and your focus at that moment of time to shift your foot from the accelerator to the brakes.

Talking about focus, keep your hands on the steering and your eyes on the road. As Albert Einstein was fond of saying: “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

> This article first appeared in StarMetro.