What are the latest safety car features?
21 Nov 2016What are the latest safety car features?
By Tim Barnes-Clay
Thanks to engineering advancements and countless safety campaigns, cars have never been as safe as they are now. With National Road Safety WeekOpens in new window fast approaching (21-27 November), we've rounded up some of the latest safety features available for cars, including how they keep us safe before, during or after an accident.
It’s not always the first thing that we think about when it comes to safety technology, but the very material our cars are now made of has vastly improved over the last few decades. New processes in making steel vehicle parts, and the ability to give different sections of a car separate strengths, has made having an accident much safer, as forces can be absorbed far more effectively. With this advancement, we've even seen the introduction of carbon fibre to some cars. This is used primarily in racing cars, but the material is slowly starting to feature in more road cars, again boosting strength and safety.
Many new cars now have radar technology. For example, the new Volkswagen Golf features adaptive cruise control on some models (available as an optional extra for an additional cost.) This uses radar systems attached to the vehicle to track and follow the movements of other cars ahead and around it. This means you can set a distance you want your vehicle to remain at from other cars, and it will adjust the speed according to that distance. It will speed up and slow down where needed, so all you have to do is steer the car.
Radar Technology is also used in systems that can apply the brakes in emergency situations at low speeds. Ford’s Active City Stop (offered as part of an optional Driver Assistance Pack on Fiestas for an additional cost) works at speeds of up to 20 mph and monitors objects close to the car that you may not have even seen. This system can help prevent injuries to pedestrians, especially in the city environment it was engineered for.
Crash Detection Systems
This is all down to advanced sensors that work incredibly quickly. In many new cars now — such as some Volvo, BMW and Mercedes-Benz models — your car will know you are having an accident before you do. When it detects a collision has occurred, it can ready the vehicle for the forces of an accident by doing things like pre-tightening the seat belts and preparing airbags.
Now, many cars also prime themselves to record the data. Once the accident has happened, your car will call the emergency services and relay information, such as the location, strength of forces involved and damage to the car. This not only allows the emergency services to pinpoint your exact location, it also gives them an idea of what to expect when they get to the scene. This is valuable data when it comes to saving lives, and saving lives is exactly what this technology does.
Driver Monitoring Systems
Believe it or not, your car now has so much computing power it doesn’t just focus outside, it also focuses inside. Some manufacturers, such as Skoda, offer models that come with systems monitoring the driver’s inputs into the pedals and accelerator to know how tired the driver is. If the system thinks the driver is too tired to drive, it will display a message on screen telling the driver to take a break. This warning is normally shown alongside a little coffee cup symbol — which is often what we need on a long drive.
Yes, even tyres are more advanced than they used to be, and the tyres that car manufacturers have developed for the colder months have been proven to help avoid disasters. Using different tread patterns and compounds that respond better to cold than warmth, these tyres actually provide more grip and better stopping distances than standard tyres. They are already compulsory in many European countries and are becoming more popular in the UK. If you are a Motability Scheme customer living in a remote area or somewhere that regularly experiences extreme weather conditions, it may be worth considering fitting winter tyres to your vehicle .
Tyre-pressure Monitoring Systems
Almost all new cars on sale today feature a system that monitors the pressure in your tyres. Not only is this useful for knowing when to top them up with air, it’s also safer, as it can often detect the deflation of a tyre long before the driver can.
Why does this matter?
Road safety saves lives, there's no doubt about that. But aside from these great new safety technologies, there are lots of ways we can drive more safely. For example, to name a few, being aware of car stopping distances, avoiding driving when tired or when weather conditions are dangerous and never holding your phone when talking — always, always use hands-free!
It's crucial to stay safe whatever vehicle you use — be it a car or mobility scooter. Check out our tips for safe mobility scooter use and remember to be extra careful in these darker, frostier winter months.
Road Safety Week Opens in new window is the UK's largest annual road safety event, organised by charity Brake. It promotes safe driving, helps make streets safer and supports the victims of road crashes.