The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

New OEM Technologies Advance Driver Safety

October 2008, by Chad Simon

As the focus of risk management in fleet operations increasingly pinpoints accident prevention, vehicle active and passive safety technologies join fuel efficiency as critical selector considerations.

Active safety technologies such as forward collision warning systems and adaptive cruise control provide drivers additional help in accident avoidance, while advanced airbag and seatbelt systems help protect drivers and passengers in a collision.

Fleets can take advantage of some of these technologies to ensure driver safety and minimize unforeseen out-of-pocket expenses. The following is an overview of advanced passive and active safety and security features offered by major domestic and import-badged auto manufacturers.

GM’s Advanced Safety Offerings

General Motors’ crossover lineup (GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, and Saturn Outlook) boasts the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick for 2008 in front, side, and rear impacts and provide StabiliTrak electronic stability control (ESC) system as standard equipment. The crossovers also received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) New Car Assessment Program’s (NCAP) highest rating of five stars for both driver and front passenger in frontal crash tests and for driver and rear passenger in side tests.

The all-new Saturn VUE is constructed of high-strength steel and includes dual-stage front-seat airbags, front-seat side thorax airbags, rollover-capable head curtain airbags, and OnStar as standard features. The ASTRA adds a safety cage, six standard airbags, active head restraints, a pedal release system, front safety belt pretensioners and load limiters, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Cadillac’s new CTS sports sedan also earned the IIHS 2008 Top Safety Pick, achieving highest ratings in front, side, and rear crash testing with StabiliTrak as a standard feature.

StabiliTrak also comes standard on the 2009 Chevrolet Impala 2LT, LTZ, and SS models. The sedan features a four-wheel disc brake system, anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution, traction control, and remote keyless entry. The Impala offers a strengthened safety cage passenger compartment with front and rear doors designed for improved energy dissipation in a crash.

The GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickups achieved NHTSA five-star frontal crash test ratings and offer a stronger frame and body structure. Features include segment-first StabiliTrak with rollover mitigation technology, head curtain side airbags, and safety belt pretensioners that activate during a rear-end crash. The pickups also feature wider front and rear tracks and more responsive suspensions, including a coil-over-shock front suspension design and rack-and-pinion steering. Additional safety features include remote vehicle activation, Autotrac active transfer case to help keep the vehicle on the road in slippery driving situations, and Ultrasonic rear parking assist. OnStar’s Safe & Sound plan includes an advanced crash response system to quickly dispatch emergency personnel and equipment to crash scenes.

Ford Achieves Top Safety Ratings

The 2009 Ford Escape and Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid achieved the IIHS Top Safety Pick rating and earned the U.S. government’s five-star crashworthiness rating. The Ford and Mercury compact SUV body structures use high-strength steel to help protect passengers in front and side impacts. Every new Ford SUV and crossover launched since the 2006 Ford Explorer features standard ESC and side airbags.

The 2009 Ford Flex full-size crossover also earned five-star frontal- and side-impact crashworthiness ratings in NHTSA tests. Standard safety features include dual front airbags, headliner-mounted side curtain airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC), and a tire pressure monitoring system. Flex uses lightweight aluminum-coated boron steel in the body structure. Ford engineers also positioned side door intrusion beams to help manage and absorb energy during side-impact crashes.

Many Ford vehicles also feature AdvanceTrac with RSC. Additional safety features include front seat-mounted side airbags and safety canopy air curtain system with rollover detection. Also standard is Ford’s Personal Safety System, which includes dual-stage driver and front-passenger airbags, driver and passenger seat position sensors, and load-limiting safety belt retractors and pretensioners. Together, the system helps customize front airbag deployment levels based on driver seating location, passenger weight, and safety belt usage.

In addition, Ford’s blind spot mirror is a traditional side view mirror designed with a secondary convex spotter in the top outer corner, providing a view of the driver’s blind spot. The driver is alerted to potential danger when traffic enters the blind spot on either side of the vehicle.
Ford’s new SIRIUS Travel Link feature helps route drivers around potentially dangerous conditions using the vehicle’s navigation system with real-time traffic information. SYNC, Ford’s hands-free connectivity system for Bluetooth-enabled phones and digital music players, helps drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

Ford’s privately funded “smart intersections” leverage GPS technology and wireless infrastructure-to-vehicle communications to reduce traffic accidents and ease congestion. The system communicates with specially equipped test vehicles to warn drivers of potentially dangerous traffic situations, such as when a vehicle is about to run through a red light. The intersection is outfitted with technology that can monitor traffic signal status, GPS data, and digital maps to assess potential hazards and transmit the information to vehicles. Once the in-vehicle computer receives data indicating a potential hazard, it instantly warns drivers through visual and audio alerts.
Once the information is received, the vehicle’s collision avoidance system determines whether the car will safely cross the intersection or if it must stop before reaching it. If the system determines the need to stop and senses the driver is not decelerating quickly enough, visual and audio warnings are issued to the driver.

Over the next year, Ford will introduce new active safety technologies available on many Ford products, starting with the 2009 Lincoln MKS and including adaptive cruise control and blind spot information system (BLISTM) with Cross Traffic Alert. These features will complement Ford’s AdvanceTrac with RSC system.

The adaptive cruise control radar-based system monitors traffic in front (up to 600 feet) and adjusts the vehicle’s speed to keep a safe distance behind the lead vehicle. Four settings accommodate different driving styles for trailing distances. BLISTM with cross-traffic alert warns drivers of impending traffic while backing out, using radars to detect moving objects within a 65-foot range from either side of the vehicle. The feature works in conjunction with Ford’s radar-based blind-spot monitoring system. The radar identifies a vehicle entering the defined blind spot zone; an indicator light on the side-view mirror warns of an approaching vehicle.

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