WASHINGTON - This year's International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles, held June 13-16, featured demonstrations of the latest in-vehicle crash avoidance technologies including vehicle-to-vehicle communications and other advanced systems fitted in both production and prototype vehicles.

Companies from around the globe used the event to demonstrate new and forthcoming products designed to improve vehicle safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsored the event.

TRW Automotive highlighted its advances in in-car camera systems. The company said that its latest generation product has led to a major new contract with a leading North America-based vehicle manufacturer to deliver advanced driver assist functions.

Already in production with current generation products, TRW will begin supply of its latest generation camera systems in 2013. These new systems are based on a scalable camera design where the base camera can deliver lane departure warning and active lane-keeping functions. The systems are fully upgradeable to enable advanced features including forward collision warning, pedestrian detection and traffic sign recognition. When combined with a radar such as TRW's 24 GHz AC 100, vehicle longitudinal control functions including full automatic emergency braking are possible, the company said.    

"As a leading developer of intelligent, or cognitive, safety systems, TRW is well positioned to support its customers integrate this added safety functionality into their vehicles," said Peter Lake, executive vice president of sales and business development for TRW. "In the U.S., for example, lane departure warning and forward collision warning are among the features currently being highlighted in the new NCAP ratings, and TRW's scalable camera solution will allow those functions to be delivered with the option for further technological enhancements."

Forward collision warning uses a forward-looking monocular camera with object recognition capability. This is linked to a warning device that may give visual, audible or other feedback to the driver that a potential collision is imminent. For example, a brake pulse can signal to the driver that he or she needs to brake. TRW will develop the warning according to vehicle manufacturer preference.

Lane departure warning uses the camera to detect the lane or road edge markings. When a driver unintentionally crosses the lane -- and does not use the turn signal -- a warning can be issued. This might be a vibration in the steering wheel to encourage the driver to correct course. Using TRW's torque overlay technology, this feature can also be directly linked to the steering system to hold vehicles in lane unless the driver exerts a positive force to change lane.

TRW demonstrated a range of automotive safety solutions at the conference.

Another automotive supplier, Autoliv, presented test results of its new expandable roof pillar for the windshield. The pillar is three times thinner than a traditional windshield pillar in order to enhance the driver's field of view and reduce weight. In addition, the risk of roof intrusion is reduced, Autoliv said.

The new windshield pillar is designed to be as slim as possible to ensure it doesn't obscure the view of the driver. This will increase the driver's vision angle by 25 percent. In addition, the weight of the pillar is reduced by 10 percent, the company said.

However, Autoliv's new roof pillar will expand in a crash using airbag technology. The cross section of the new windshield pillar consists of a folded and air-tight structure. When the powerful gas generator expands the new pillar, the stiffness of the pillar increases by 45 percent, according to company tests with car bodies.

The integrity of the windshield pillars is critical in many crashes, especially in rollovers when there is risk of roof intrusion and in so-called offset frontal crashes where only parts of the vehicle's front-end are engaged in the impact. Very violent offset frontal crashes could cause the windshield pillar to bend and the passenger compartment to collapse.

Autoliv's new pillar concept also provides more design and styling freedom, thanks to the slimmer pillars, Autoliv said.

The conference also provided a forum to celebrate leaders in the vehicle safety field. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland honored eight individuals with U.S. Government Awards at the ESV conference, including five who received Special Awards of Appreciation and three who received Awards for Safety Engineering Excellence.

The awardees for 2011 are:

U.S. Government Special Awards of Appreciation

Gyu Hyun Kim, Korea Automobile Testing & Research Institute, TS, Korea; Thomas Broberg,Volvo Car Corp., Sweden; Matthew Avery, Thatcham, the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre, United Kingdom; Guy S. Nusholtz, Chrysler Group LLC, United States; Tony R. Laituri, Ford Motor Co., United States.

U.S. Government Awards for Safety Engineering Excellence

Erik Coelingh, Volvo Car Corp., Sweden; Hideki Yonezawa (Awarded Posthumously), National Traffic Safety and Environment Laboratory (NTSEL), Japan; Wassim G. Najm, Advanced Vehicle Technology Division, Volpe Center, RITA, U.S. DOT, United States.