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.
Chrysler’s Two-Fold Strategy
Chrysler’s two-fold safety approach consists of passive features including pretensioning and load-limiting seat belt retractors and supplemental side-curtain airbags, combined with active accident-avoidance safety features, such as responsive steering, handling, and braking.
In addition to offering a standard four-wheel ABS and electronic stability program (ESP) with hill start assist and trailer sway control, all-new 2009 Dodge Ram standard safety and security features include advanced multistage front driver and passenger airbags, supplemental side-curtain airbags, and available ParkSense rear park assist system.
Other safety features include advanced multistage airbags, brake assist, brake/park interlock, an energy-absorbing steering column, and Enhanced Accident Response System (EARS). This system enables emergency personnel to see and reach vehicle occupants in an accident, activating interior lighting and unlocking the doors after airbag deployment.
The all-new 2008 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan offer many of the same safety features as the Dodge Ram, plus an occupant resistant controller with rollover sensor. The controller determines the appropriate output for multistage driver and low-risk front-passenger deployment airbags, along with side airbag curtains during a rollover event. Power sliding passenger doors with obstacle detection sense obstacles in the path of a closing power sliding door and automatically stops and reverses the closing operation. A rearview interior conversation mirror allows the driver to see rear-seat occupants while looking forward.
Several 2008 Chrysler and Dodge vehicles earned NHTSA’s highest safety ratings for frontal- and side-impact crash protection, including:
- Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee.
- Dodge Nitro, Caliber, and Grand Caravan.
- Chrysler Town & Country.
Many of these vehicles offer such safety and security features as:
Side-occupant protection system, including supplemental side-curtain airbags and multiple sensors for rollover situations.
- ESP and ASB.
- Electronic roll mitigation.
- Tire pressure monitoring.
- Rain-sensing wipers.
- Trailer sway control.
- Hill start assist and hill descent control.
- ParkView rear backup camera.
- ParkSense rear park assist system.
- SmartBeam headlamps.
- High-intensity discharge headlamps.
- Rain-sensing wipers.
- All-speed traction control.
- Brake assist.
The Dodge Avenger’s all-wheel-drive system works on demand, driving only the front wheels until power to the rear wheels is needed. This system automatically provides added traction on snow, ice, and other low-traction surfaces. The Chrysler 300 has more than 40 safety and security features, including adaptive cruise control, uconnect phone featuring Bluetooth technology, and uconnect GPS navigation system with voice recognition.
The 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s offerings include active turn signals, adjustable pedals, ABS with rough-road detection, energy-absorbing steering wheel and column, EARS, four-wheel brake traction control system, ParkSense rear park assist system, ParkView Rear backup camera, rain-sensing wipers, and side-curtain airbags with roll detection system.
Honda Offers Safety for Everyone
As part of Honda’s “Safety for Everyone” initiative, in 2006, the company fulfilled its commitment to equip all Honda and Acura vehicles with standard safety features that include driver and front passenger front and side airbags, passenger side occupant position detection system, side curtain airbags for all rows, ABS, and vehicle stability assist with rollover sensor on all light truck models. In addition, all Honda and Acura light truck models earn top five-star government crash ratings in NHTSA frontal and side impact tests.
In 2005, Honda introduced the advanced compatibility engineering body structure on the Acura RL to enhance occupant protection in a frontal collision between vehicles of different sizes and ride heights. This feature currently is offered in 14 of the 19 Honda and Acura models sold in the U.S. To improve safety for all road users including pedestrians, Honda vehicles feature collapsible hood hinges and breakaway windshield wiper pivots to reduce severe head injuries.
Honda’s advanced airbag systems feature a front passenger airbag that deploys vertically from the instrument panel, rather than directly at the passenger. The outboard seating positions in every row of each Honda (except S2000) and Acura vehicle is protected by side curtain airbags. Honda also has developed next-generation safety technologies, including a collision mitigation braking system, introduced on the 2006 model-year Acura RL.
The all-new 2009 Acura TSX sports sedan has earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick and five-star safety ratings in all NHTSA crash tests. The TSX includes as standard equipment Acura’s advanced compatibility engineering front body structure, vehicle stability assist, ABS, dual-stage/dual-threshold front airbags, side airbags with passenger side occupant position detection system, active front head restraints, an automatic tensioning system and load limiters for front seatbelts, tire pressure monitoring system, and daytime running lights.
Toyota’s Standard Safety Features
The Toyota Corolla’s safety features include driver and front passenger advanced airbags with occupant classification sensor, driver and front passenger side airbags, and side curtain airbags. Additional features include three-point seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters, three-point outboard and center seatbelts, and ABS with electronic brake force distribution.
The Camry adds side-impact door beams and driver’s knee airbag, while the Prius adds front and rear energy-absorbing crumple zones, brake assist, and traction control.
The Tacoma mid-size pickup also features an occupant classification system for bucket and sport seats, a passenger airbag cut-off switch on Regular and Access cabs, standard four-wheel ABS with electronic brake distribution (EBD), brake assist, roll-sensing side curtain airbag off-switch, three-point seatbelts in all seating positions, emergency locking retractors on the driver’s belt, front passenger-side automatic/emergency locking retractors, and optional vehicle stability control (VSC) with traction control (TRAC).
The Tundra full-size pickup adds the Star Safety System, which includes TRAC, limited slip differential plus VSC, tailgate assist, engine immobilizer (V-8 only), anti-theft alarm system (Double Cab and CrewMax Limited), and front and rear sonar (Double Cab Limited).
Lexus vehicles are designed with advanced passive safety technology and equipped with front and rear crumple zones. The IS, ES 350, and LS models use a new single inflator, twin-chamber passenger front airbag, which absorbs impact energy from the passenger by the two chambers spreading apart, rather than the passenger contacting the inflated bag. The new airbag design allows greater shoulder area contact and reduced facial contact and potentially can reduce airbag-related injuries in a collision.
For 2009, the Lexus IS 250 luxury sedan is equipped with an advanced vehicle dynamics integrated management system, VSC, and TRAC. The adaptive front lighting system, which helps illuminate a turn or curve as the driver steers into it, is standard on LS, GS 460 and GS 450h, IS F, LX 570, and SC 430 models.
All Lexus sedans and the LX 570 offer the pre-collision system (PCS), which integrates the dynamic radar cruise control system. A millimeter-wave radar sensor helps detect obstacles in front of the car, while vehicle speed, steering angle, and yaw-rate inputs help determine whether a collision is unavoidable. PCS preemptively retracts front seat belts and pre-initializes brake assist so increased braking is applied when the driver hits the pedal. The dynamic radar cruise control sensors use radar technology to help maintain a preset following distance from the car traveling in front. If the vehicle gets too close, the throttle is automatically reduced and brakes are applied. Once the road clears, the vehicle returns to its preset speed.
Research is Key
Fleets have options when choosing a selector and many factors to consider in addition to style, function, and fuel efficiency. To avoid costly repairs, lawsuits, downtime, and injury settlements, fleet managers must research, compare safety offerings from manufacturers, and decide how much they’re willing to invest in technologies to keep their drivers and the public safe.