Automakers are now moving on to reducing hazards such as cyclists being run over in traffic, children dying from heatstroke in locked cars or multiple pile-ups on fast roads.
New self-activating safety options are appearing all the time in new cars. Here are a few of the most significant developments.
Doors with eyes
The “dooring” of cyclists – the name given to an incident when a someone opens a car door in the path of a passing cyclist is an all-too-common situation with a high risk for all those involved. Carmaker Hyundai says it has come up with an answer to the problem.
The company's exit warning system uses radar sensors to scan the area behind a parked vehicle and will lock the doors if it spots a cyclist.
The decision is taken out of the driver’s hands and it works for all occupants for up to three minutes after the engine has been switched off. The system has been fitted to the rear doors of Hyundai's new Santa Fe SUV, says press spokesman Bernhard Voss.
Prepare for impending impact
Audi’s flagship A8 limousine uses electric motors to activate the suspension for enhanced passive safety. The system can jack up a side of the car to better protect its occupants the moment before a crash.
The body is raised on the exposed side so that the collision is directed to the stronger areas of the heavyweight car, such as the sills and floor structure. Audi says the potentially damaging load on occupants is cut by 50%.
Stop child deaths
Children and dogs left in closed cars can suffocate and die, especially if it hot outside. Hyundai's Sante Fe has a solution for this too Called Rear Occupant Alert. It helps make sure nobody is left behind when the car is parked, namely infants, young children or family pets.
An ultrasonic sensor is activated when the car is parked and locked, and if movement is detected inside, the horn will sound and lights will flash. The system also sends an alert to the owner's smartphone. A number of other automakers offer similar passive reminders for drivers.
This is a feature more commonly seen in mainstream cars but the latest versions are more sophisticated. Front sensors detect what cars in front are doing and send a warning to the driver if a collision seems imminent.
The best set-ups apply the brakes automatically if an object is approaching too quickly or in an accident situation. Others sense that a driver is not responding to the warning and apply light brake force to slow the vehicle.
This can be a lifesaver on motorways when tail-ups build up quickly, leaving little time for drivers to react at high speed when encountering a column of stationary traffic.
Avoid car park scrapes
BMW believes parking should be as enjoyable as driving. It has equipped the new luxury 8 Series coupe with an assistant which takes the stress out of negotiating a crowded multi-storey car park. The company’s remote control parking assistant lets the car do the parking.
The system is so clever that it records up to 50 metres of the car's previous movements in a car park as long as the vehicle is travelling at under 36 km/h, said press spokesman Martin Schleypen.
When it is time to leave the parking space, the car retraces its route automatically, with no need for the driver to accelerate, steer or apply the brakes.
The car as parking attendant
The revised C-Class from Mercedes-Benz is the first from the range to get the tweaked Me-App which sends the vehicle information to smartphones and smart watches.
The app enables owners to locate the vehicle, plan a journey and also find out if someone has dented the car when it is parked – thanks to on-board surveillance cameras
The owner gets an prompt alert to say that someone has damaged the car although there is not a lot he or she can do about it. The next stage is more interesting but it has legal repercussions.
Courts might accept evidence from on-board cameras to unmask the crash perpetrator and possibly lead to a prosecution. – dpa