As our roads have become busier, car manufacturers have turned their attention to safety. Hardly a year or a motor show goes by without another advance in the business of keeping us safe on the roads. Here’s the low-down on the high-tech available on some of the safest cars out there.
A wheel on each corner
Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) have been with us for some time now and do exactly as the name suggests. ABS allows a driver to brake fully, whilst steering at the same time without risking a brake lock-up and inevitable skid. Electronic Stability Programmes (ESP) takes this a stage further by detecting and reducing loss of traction. Both systems could make all the difference in an emergency and could alone be the difference between life and death.
Car that has this: The latest Ford Focus offers both as standard.
The perils of a flat tyre
A more recent advancement is the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS). A car with faulty or uneven tyre pressures is unsafe and the worst case scenario is a flat tyre which could cause the driver to lose control. Of course, we should all check our tyre pressures regularly but TPMS takes it a step or two further, instantly warning the driver of a loss of pressure via the instrument pinnacle. It’s not foolproof but it could make all the difference.
Car that has this: The award winning Audi A6 can be specified with TPMS.
Safe in the back seat
ISOFIX is the general name given to the mounting points for child safety seats. Any parent who has ever battled with the child seat / seat belt combination will appreciate the value of a simple click-in system. It’s based on an industry standard (ISO) and is a permanent fixture in all new cars. It’s so simple that it is the work of a moment to secure in the certain knowledge that your child is secure.
Car that has this: Most cars come with ISOFIX but family friendly SUV’s like the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso can have as many as three fixing points.
Airbag – the one you never want to see
First there was the driver airbag and then the front seat passenger got one. Today, cars can have several of the instantly inflatable life-savers strategically placed around the cabin. Basically, the more airbags the better, ready to spring into action in an instant and that’s the one thing we never want to see.
Car that has this: The Volvo V40 even has an external airbag to protect pedestrians in the case of impact.
Amazing though it may seem, more and more people manage to forget to turn their lights on when it gets dark. Similarly, they will choose to peer through rain-splattered glass and forget to reach for the wiper stalk. That’s a thing of the past now because, once set up, the car will do it for you. Rain sensors will trigger auto-wipers and automatic lights will engage as the light fades or, say, in tunnels.
Car that has this: Many cars offer this feature including the excellent Audi A4 saloon.
Once the preserve of the wealthy car owner the ubiquitous Bluetooth has now trickled down to many mainstream cars as a standard feature. Put simply, it is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances meaning there is no longer any need to talk on, or handle, a mobile device (which is illegal anyway). You can buy separate units cheaply but a built-in system is likely to be more reliable.
Car that has this: A popular option or a standard feature, it is included on Vauxhall’s executive Insignia model.
What does the future hold?
For the most part, the latest technology appears first on luxury cars and as it becomes more economically viable it gradually finds its way onto the mainstream cars that most of us buy. The good news is that safety systems keep on coming so in the not too distant future we can expect to see more, hopefully as standard. Here are just some of the devices appearing now:
Adaptive cruise control which keeps a safe distance to car in front. The Blind spot warning warns when a car is in your blind spot. Volvo’s are increasingly being offered with an excellent system as an option.
City Safe Brake detects unexpected objects and brakes car. Whilst Adaptive headlights ‘bend’ full beam around other cars avoiding glare in on-coming drivers face. Driver monitoring ensures that a driver is alert and even recommends a break and the new Pre-crash systems deploy sensors that can detect an impact, tighten seatbelts, close windows and even applies the brakes to minimise occupant injury.