Safety technology in cars has been coming on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. The ever stringent Euro NCAP crash tests allow consumers to have a good idea about how well their chosen car will survive in a low speed smash and that puts pressure on manufacturers to either be the best or at the very least to be close to the best.
Modern cars have crumple zones, side impact protection beams, front airbags, side airbags, curtain airbags and even knee airbags. We even have pedestrian airbags thanks to Volvo and their V40, pillows of soft air that burst out of the base of the windscreen to shield anyone unlucky enough to have stepped in front of you. Or were they lucky to have stepped in front of a Volvo?
While a lot has been done to protect us in the unfortunate event of a crash, there is a new area of technology that’s developing at an astonishing pace. The next big thing that’s got a lot of people excited is impact prevention systems.
At their most simple these are automated system that stop you from having the accident in the first place. These are usually known as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems, but you may have heard them called city braking or city safety systems.
AEB is a like having a guardian angel peering over your shoulder, looking out for potential accidents. If a child was to run into the road or a car stopped suddenly in front of you the AEB system will flash lights, sound an alarm or vibrate the steering wheel to get your attention. If you don’t react in time the system will hit the brakes for you, applying full force and bringing you to a halt in the nick of time.
Does it work? Yes! I’ve twice sampled the system in a Volvo S60 (on a track, fortunately not on the road) and it most certainly does work. On both occasions the car came to a suddetn stop before hitting the obstacle. It’s not a pleasant experience but there is a good reason for that. The worry is that drivers will simply switch off when they’re driving if they think the car will bail them out of trouble so the braking effect has been kept deliberately sharp to stop you wanting to use it.
There’s already good evidence that AEB is reducing car accident claims. Several insurance groups from various countries have seen claim rates drop by between 28% and 31% in vehicles fitted with AEB. That means insurers are paying less in claims for particular models, both in terms of repairs and injury compensation, and that, in turn, results in lower premiums for cars fitted with AEB.
You don’t have to splash out on a premium car such as a Volvo or Mercedes to get a car with AEB. Now it can ba added to mainstream cars such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Up. The Up is a good exmaple because you only have to pay an additional £225 to add City Safety as an option. That’s not a lot to start with but then consider it will save you money on your insurance premium and potentially stop you having a costly accident or injuring someone else. When you think of it like that it seem’s crazy not to add it.
AEB systems are only going to get more sophisticated in the future. City braking is one thing but from there you can look at the car handling higher speeds, sch as on motorways. It could even scan to the side of the car for oncoming traffic, stopping you from pulling out into the path of another car or motorbike.
We’re at the point where AEB is on the verge of becoming mainstream. That’s to the benefit of everyone, whether they be a driver, a pedestrian or a cyclist. Even the Euro NCAP tests will be tking AEB systems int account from 2014 and that can only be a good thing for all of us.