Spotlight on Technology: Smart Braking Tech That Can Save A Life
Thanks to airbags, stability control systems and ABS, today's cars are safer than they ever have been. But these safety technologies are advancing quickly, and now we are beginning to see safety technology that actually acts on behalf of the driver to reduce collisions.
Case in point: some cars can stop themselves when they sense an obstruction. Volvo's "City Safety" technology, available in several of the company's 2013 models, will bring the car to full stop when it detects an object in front of the vehicle, and a similar system soon to be introduced in the 2013 Lexus LS460.
Volvo's City Safety technology uses an infrared laser sensor built into the windshield to monitor the area in front of the vehicle when traveling at speeds between about 2 to 19 (Volvo wagons) or 30 mph (Volvo sedans). A closing velocity sensor detects and reacts to other vehicles within 18 feet of the vehicle's front bumper during both daytime and nighttime driving to determine whether a collision is likely. If the speed difference between vehicles is less than 9 mph, City Safety will automatically brake to bring the vehicle to a complete stop to help drivers avoid crashes altogether. Keep in mind, if the difference is between 9 and 19 or 30 mph, the feature may not prevent the crash but will reduce the consequences.
The system will intervene under the most practical circumstances: When a driver is most likely to be distracted, such as when driving in congested traffic or when trying to find a spot in a busy parking lot. Add a fussy baby or a couple of arguing kids in the back seat and the system becomes just that much more helpful.
A report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined Volvos equipped with such accident avoidance technology can help to prevent as many as one-quarter of low-speed crashes. In fact, the report says, "claims under property damage liability coverage — the insurance that pays for damage to vehicles that an at-fault driver hits — were filed 27 percent less often for the XC60 than other midsize luxury SUVs."
Volvo has increased its safety stopping ability to include not just obstructions in front of the vehicle, but smaller objects moving towards the vehicle from the side – as in a pedestrian stepping out from between cars in a congested city street. Below 22 mph, Pedestrian Detection can bring the vehicle to a complete stop before striking a pedestrian; at higher speeds, the vehicle’s speed is sharply reduced.
How does it work? PopSci explains: "When a bumper-mounted radar detects what might be a pedestrian, a camera mounted near the rearview mirror snaps a shot, and an onboard computer compares the photo against a database of 10,000 images in search of telling details—a walker’s swinging arms, for example, or his moving head."
But that's not where the good news ends: according to USA Today, similar versions of intelligent braking that stops — or at least slows — cars if drivers don't act, are also being introduced on such premium vehicles as Acura, Audi, BMW, and are trickling down into more affordable cars, including several by Chrysler, so watch for such systems when you are shopping for your next new car. Doron Levin gives more detail about the Advanced Pre-Collision system being offered on the 2013 Lexus LS460 at CNN Money.
Make Braking Safety A Priority When Shopping for Your Next New Car
Available on Volvo XC60s since the 2010 model year, City Safety is now standard on all Volvo models. Pedestrian Detection is now available as part of the Technology Package on 2013 model year S60 and S80 sedans and XC60 and XC70 wagons. The Advanced Pre-Collision system will be an option on the 2013 Lexus LS460 when it begins arriving in dealerships in November.
You can also research what safety and other options are available on almost every make/model of a car by visiting www.truecar.com, where you can connect with Certified Dealers in our network willing to sell their car for a guaranteed upfront savings.