US shows future car tech - now

2012-09-21 08:50

TRW Automotive has revealed some of its latest safety technologies at a US test track, showcasing systems that could soon be available in everyday cars.

One of TRW Automotive’s star performers, the Detroit News reported, was a radio and video analysis system able to switch from passive to proactive.


The intervention, which involved slamming on the Passat’s brakes, only occurred once the driver had ignored the audible alarm and flashing red collision warning light – and the test dummy’s knees were spared.

Other new safety systems include traction control that keeps cars going straight on a water-soaked ceramic tile skid pan (created to replicate ice) and a dew-point sensor that activates defrosters even BEFORE windows start to fog.

There was also a steering wheel touch-pad that allowed text messages to be scrawled with a thumb while a computer voice or text projected on to the windshield allowed the driver to verify the message while keeping eyes on the road.

Also on display was an airbag outside the car to protect pedestrians from the windshield’s hard leading edge and frame - something Wheels24 has already covered.

Peter Lake, executive vice-president for sales and business development at TRW, told the DetNews: "The past 10 years was an era of passive safety. The next 10 will be the era of active safety.”


However, as automakers increasingly seek to build one model to fit all global markets, Asian and increasingly safety-minded European government regulations are changing the look and function of cars in the US: blunt noses and high bonnets follow European standards to protect pedestrians; a high bumper reduces leg injuries; a high bonnet with clearance over the engine provides a crushable cushion.

"It wasn't long ago that anti-lock brakes were 10 times the cost they are today," Lake said.

Today, ABS is an integral part of vehicle safety linking traction and stability control systems to correct handling, steering and braking errors – often even before the driver realises anything has gone wrong.