A crash-proof car in the making

April 16th, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 16 (IANS) Europe’s largest road safety research project, with a budget of 50 million euros, might yet come up with a virtually crash-proof car, affording unprecedented levels of safety. For example, a truck suddenly enters your lane from a side road, only a few metres ahead. Applying brakes or attempting evasive action is in vain.

Since impact is unavoidable, safety systems time the release of safety belts and airbag, just a second before the crash. Such is the promise of the crash-proof car, perhaps in not-too-distant future.

Stopping all car collisions is unthinkable, but the technology could be pushed to make it increasingly unlikely and mitigate crashes when they do occur.

Two projects, ‘Apalaci’ and ‘Compose’, take this a step further, tracking the speed and trajectories of surrounding vehicles and other road users in real time.

If one vehicle suddenly stops, or a pedestrian suddenly steps onto the road, they swing into action to rapidly calculate the implications.

Apalaci is an advanced pre-crash mitigation system built round the registration of other motorists and cyclists. Sensors monitor the street or road immediately around the vehicle and collect as much information about a collision as possible, before it even starts to take place.

The car can react far faster than the driver, cutting speed by crucial amounts to ensure unavoidable accidents are less severe.

‘Apalaci’ was tested in a series of vehicles like the Fiat Stilo, Volvo FH12 truck, the Alfa Romeo 156 and Mercedes E350. It used laser sensors, radar, software decision assistance and a variety of other technologies to achieve the goal.

‘Compose’, on the other hand, aims more specifically to keep others, as well as its driver, safe. It can apply the brakes if a pedestrian steps onto the road, or extend the bumper, and raise the bonnet to enhance occupant protection.

Tiny differences have a huge impact on car safety. Dropping speed by one kmph can reduce accidents with injury by three percent, while braking fractions of a second sooner is enough to reduce the damage caused dramatically.

The systems were tested in the BMW 545i and the Volvo FH12 truck, and they do appreciably enhance safety. But, for all their potential, these systems remain, for now, the preserve of the future.

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