The 21st century brings continual technological advancement and the vehicle industry is one area where this is becoming more obvious. The collision survivability rate is better due to multiple air bags, protective crumple zones, and improved restraint devices. But today drivers are benefiting from improved safety systems that can actually help prevent collisions, not just protect the occupants should there be a collision.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a summary of the latest innovations regarding collision avoidance. These systems include Electronic Stability, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Intervention, and Adaptive Cruise Control.
- An Electronic Stability System uses differential braking in order to keep the vehicle moving in the intended direction in an extreme maneuver. This would aid the driver in spin out or under steering/plow out scenarios. The system can brake one or more wheels, as required, to get the vehicle moving in the direction the driver intended with steering wheel input.
- The Lane Departure Warning System uses a camera to monitor the painted lane markings on the road ahead. If the vehicle starts to drift from the lane, with no turn signal activation, it will initiate an aural and/or visual warning to the driver. It does not control the vehicle, but warns the driver so that he/she can take the appropriate action.
- The Forward Collision Warning System uses a sensor system to monitor the distance between the vehicle and the vehicle ahead on the road. It can determine speeds and closure rates and will again warn the driver if a collision is imminent. Some systems will now auto brake the vehicle as well, but most are simply driver alerts.
- Blind Spot Intervention Systems monitor adjacent vehicles and will alert the driver when a vehicle has entered their “blind spot” and the driver begins to drift from their lane. Should the turn signal be activated the system will engage an aural warning, and some will begin differential braking to return the car to the original lane.
- Adaptive cruise control is a feature designed to maintain a set speed and, when applicable, adjust the set speed to main¬tain a specified distance from a lead vehicle. When following another vehi¬cle, the system will automatically slow down or speed up in responses to changes in the lead vehicle’s speed.
As potentially helpful as these systems are, remember that the driver is ultimately responsible for the vehicle operation. As a former airline pilot, I can say that advanced technology is a wonderful thing… until pilots become too dependent upon it and complacency sets in. Perfectly good airplanes are flown into the ground on a regular basis due to over reliance upon technology. Drivers today can take advantage of these crash avoidance systems and if done responsibly the collision rate will likely decrease. But never replace vigilance with electronic gadgets. Check out the National Transportation Safety Board website for further information on advanced safety technology for transportation.