The History of Car Safety Technology: Part 3

By Liberty Insurance Ireland on 7 February 2017
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Driver Assistance Technologies

For the final article in the three part series, guest blogger Mathew Young takes us through the evolution of driver assistance technologies.

The proliferation of compact and affordable computers has given automakers the ability to create a number of technologies that take some of the danger out of driving. These technologies, known as driver assistance technologies, focus on automating routine driver tasks and giving drivers access to better information to make smart driving decisions.

Cruise Control & Adaptive Cruise Control

Cruise control, which maintains the speed of the vehicle at a constant rate, has been used in cars since the 1958 Imperial. Adaptive cruise control is the modern evolution of this technology. Instead of holding the speed of the car at a steady rate, an adaptive system dynamically adjusts the speed of the vehicle to maintain a constant distance between your car and the car ahead of you. Adaptive systems rely on the pairing of sensing technologies, such as LIDAR, with existing cruise control systems. These technologies were pioneered by Mitsubishi; the 1991 Debonair offered an advisory system that warned drivers when they were too close to the vehicle ahead of them. The 1995 Mitsubishi Diamante included the first adaptive cruise control that was empowered to change the speed of the vehicle.

Blind Spot Monitoring

It was first introduced by Volvo in 2007. This technology uses lasers, radar and other sensors to determine when a vehicle or other object is occupying one of your vehicle's blind spots. Other manufacturers soon followed suit, introducing additional technologies, like cross traffic alerts, to further protect drivers from obstacles they couldn't see. In 2010, the Nissan Fuga introduced the Blind Spot Intervention System, which actively steered the vehicle away from obstacles to prevent collisions.

Electronic Stability Control

It is one of the most ubiquitous driver assistance technologies today. This technology, first introduced in the 1991 Mitsubishi Diamante, dynamically adjusts the power or braking force going to each individual wheel, allowing the vehicle to corner better and resist skids. Future versions allowed the ESC system to adjust the engine torque, further increasing the ability of the driver to prevent a rollover or skid. Today, almost all passenger vehicles include an ESC system as a standard feature.

Lane Departure & Lane Keeping Assist

The technology monitors the position of the vehicle within its lane and warns the driver when he appears to be leaving his lane unexpectedly. Originally introduced in the 1991 Mitsubishi Debonair, these systems use cameras to identify the traffic lines and locate the vehicle's position relative to those lines. The 2003 Honda Inspire was one of the first to offer a functional lane keeping system, which actively steers the vehicle to keep it within its lane.

Auto Emergency Braking (AEB)

As the name implies, the AEB automatically applies the brakes in an emergency situation. The first system was installed in the 2006 Volvo XC60 and used a variety of sensors to detect an emergency situation. As sensor and computing technologies increased in sensitivity and power, these systems proliferated throughout almost all major automakers. Early systems merely warned the driver to begin braking, but as these systems have matured, they've developed the ability to pre-charge the brakes and even apply emergency braking without any input from the driver.

Automakers have devoted considerable resources into making driving safer. Which do you think are the most important safety features? Have you purchased a vehicle with any driver assistance technologies?

About the author:

Matthew Young is a Boston based freelance writer. As an aspiring automotive journalist looking to make a name for himself in the industry, he is passionate about covering anything on 4 wheels. When Matthew is not busy writing about cars or new emerging tech, he usually spends time fiddling with his camera and learning a thing or two about photography. You can tweet him @mattbeardyoung

Catch the previous instalments in the series: Part 1 and Part 2.

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