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A decade from now we, will look back and realize how engineers invented technology to make driving safer than ever. In an accident testing, also called time zero, or the moment a crash begins, we think about car safety. We tend to analyze what happens after time zero. Crumple zones engage, seat belts tighten, airbags erupt, and after the violence ends, ideally the passenger cell remains intact. The fractions of time at the onset of an impact are vital. However, we also need to look at the ones that come before. The quest for safer car runs in two ways: surviving the crash and stopping the clock before it gets to time zero. Here are five reasons car manufacturers had to use technology to make driving safe.
- Steel. Over the past 10 to 15 years, steel has been getting stronger. In the early 2000s, cars had about 500 megapascals of tensile strength. Currently, the steel is hot-pressed or hot-stamped to make 1,500 megapascals. Steel strength determines how a car deforms in an accident. Earlier cars experienced high deformity since the steel was weak. Today’s cars have high-strength steel thus turning passenger cars into invincible tanks but controlling crash energy and minimizing weight.
- Built to Crash. In the early 50s and 60s, cars were heavy and stiff. If you crashed on a wall, all the deceleration went through your body. Therefore, the vehicles were not safe for passengers. Today, car manufacturers use different materials and steel strength in a car’s frame to redistribute crash forces and protect passengers. Some vehicles use different grades of steel and lightweight aluminum. Softer metals are set on exterior parts and gradually use stronger steel through the crush zone. These layers absorb and control the powerful energy from the impact ensuring that the passenger cell is safe.
- Smart Cars. Today’s safety research concerns the relatively new field of active accident avoidance. Manufacturers know that accidents will still occur. Therefore, they work to protect the occupants. However, the revolution in the car industry is about collision avoidance; auto braking, steering, and autonomous driving. Volvo was the first manufacturer to invest with autonomous emergency braking, where the car applies brakes in certain situations if the driver does not. According to Volvo, cars equipped with the system had 20 percent fewer collisions compared to those without auto braking.
- Drivers are the Problem. You may have felt tired while driving, but you continued driving your car. Sleeping drivers cause a good percentage of accidents. Today, your car can suggest you take a break. The vehicle looks for signs that you are drowsy. For instance, the car may take note of how many times you have veered from the center of the lane. If the sensor detects erratic lane departure, a coffee cup will show up on the dashboard display as a reminder to take a rest.
- Speed limiters. From 2006 to 2016, speeding resulted in 30 percent of most accidents. Injury lawyers such as Attorney Terry Rector can attest to the high number of speed-related cases they have dealt with in the past. It is normal to accelerate and not realize how fast the car is moving. Currently, many vehicles have high-speed alerts built into the car. The car’s GPS navigation system will read the speed limit in the area and alert you if you surpass the speed.
People will continue to spend most of their day driving. Since human error will continue to occur, the best decision is to use technology to protect passengers.