Safety innovation is rewarded in What Car? awards

Half a century of vehicle safety innovation helped win Mercedes- Benz the Safety Award at the 2007 'Motoring Oscars' - the annual What Car? Awards...


Mercedes-Benz's technology was recognised by What Car? when it won the safety award

From the first application of crumple zones in 1957 to the latest sophisticated technology on today's vehicles, Mercedes has been at the forefront of safety innovation and research, said What Car? group editor Steve Fowler in presenting the award.

The award came in the centenary year of the birth of the man regarded as the father of automotive safety, Bela Barenyi, a Mercedes engineer who invented crumple zones and the passenger safety cell (1959) amongst other devices - although other earlier Mercedes' safety features launched included the fi rst brakes on all four wheels (1924) and the first safety door lock (1949).

The manufacturer began equipping its cars with electronic stability control a decade ago - today all models have the safety technology which is now the focus of a major industry e-safety campaign - and in announcing the winner Mr Fowler said: "Mercedes fits stability control to every model in its range. Where it leads, others follow.

"Recently the company has surpassed its previous efforts [with the innovative Pre-Safe predictive occupant protection system] as well as a string of impressive Euro NCAP crash test scores - five stars is the norm for occupant safety with impressive results for child and pedestrian safety. It is this egalitarian approach as much as innovative recent developments that nets Mercedes this award."

50 years of Mercedes-Benz safety landmarks include:

1957 First crumple zones
1959 First passenger safety cell
1959 First hidden windscreen wipers
1959 First interior without sharp edges
1963 First sports car with safety body
1963 First offset crash tests
1965 First diagonal seat belts
1968 First airbag test
1973 First three-point safety belt
1973 First safety head restraint
1973 First child restraint system
1978 First anti-lock braking system
1981 First driver airbag
1988 First passenger airbag
1989 First rollover sensor
1992 First ABS and driver airbag as standard
1995 First electronic stability programme
1996 First brake assist system
1997 First side airbags
1998 First window airbags
1999 First active body control
2002 First crash sensors
2002 First Pre-Safe system
2005 First NightView Assist night vision system
2005 First radar cruise control system to 0 mph
2006 First collision mitigating radar system

Pre-Safe first appeared in 2002, and is now standard on six model ranges. In the moments before an accident, Pre-Safe protects vehicle occupants by electronically pretensioning the seat belts, moving electric seats to a more upright position, and if necessary, closing windows and the sunroof. If an accident is avoided the systems reset themselves.

The latest S-Class features Pre-Safe Brake, which is the first globally-available system that automatically brakes in the event of an impending impact.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Breitling, director active safety/vehicle dynamics /energy management, passenger car development, said: "Safety is standard on every Mercedes-Benz and we are very proud to receive this prestigious award. The company has a proud history at the forefront of automotive safety.

"From the first crumple zones and survival cells in the 1950s we have moved on to sophisticated active safety systems that communicate with each other to prevent accidents occurring in the first place. This not only saves the lives of the owners of our cars, but other road users benefit too."

New C-class takes safety to the limit

Mercedes-Benz is putting the emphasis on safety with the June UK arrival of the new C-Class - the manufacturer's best-selling model.

The model will feature some of the German marque's most advanced safety technology, which has previously been reserved for more expensive cars in its range.

Safety-related technology will include the newly-developed agility control suspension package with selective damping, which aids steering when cornering or taking avoiding action; adaptive brake, which is another new development and is based on the technology of the S-Class and includes hill start assist making it easier for drivers to move off on uphill gradients; and pre-safe (see left). Seven airbags are included as standard along with Mercedes' Neck Pro head restraint system designed to reduce the risk of whiplash injury.

Mercedes-Benz has also developed flashing adaptive brake lights as a major help in reducing rear-end collisions, and these will also be standard equipment in the new C-Class. If the driver needs to brake hard at speeds in excess of 30 mph the brake lights flash rapidly to warn drivers following behind. At higher speeds of around 70 mph, flashing lights make drivers react 0.2 seconds quicker than they do to conventional brake lights.

The intelligent light system developed by Mercedes-Benz is available in C-Class for the first time. Bi-xenon headlamps are automatically adapted to the driving situation, illuminating a wider area when driving on country roads and improving long range visibility on motorways, for example. The system also includes enhanced front fog lamps, as well as the cornering light function and active light system, which enables the headlamps to follow steering input for better visibility.

Swedish maker praised for head restraints

SAAB has been commended by the independentlyoperated Thatcham Motor Insurance Repair Centre for the effectiveness of its active head restraints in reducing neck injury's for the second year in succession....

The Swedish marque-s entire model range received the highestpossible marks for protection against neck injury, compared with 20% of the German premium cars surveyed.

Even after a relatively minor impact, neck injury following rear-end collisions is a common driver complaint, which can have debilitating long-term effects. Thatcham says whiplash is the most common injury in motor vehicle crashes, with over 250,000 cases reported by British insurers annually.

The Saab 9-5 pioneered the use of Saab active head restraints (SAHR) in 1996. Since then, the patented technology has been fi tted as standard to both front seats of all Saab models sold in the UK. Independent crash investigation ratings from around the world have shown SAHR to reduce serious neck injury to front seat occupants in the event of a rear end collision, by as much as 75% compared to cars not fi tted with the technology.

Further Information about the Thatcham tests and a full list of results is available at: www.

The Swedish Automobile Association has commended Saab for 'AlcoKey' innovation. The Department for Transport is currently running a pilot alco-lock programme for repeat drink drivers, whilst alco-locks are already enforced in many US states and Canadian provinces. Smaller than a mobile phone, the 'AlcoKey' incorporates a flip-top cover with a mouth piece where the driver provides a breath sample before starting the car. A radio transmitter then sends a signal to the car's electronic control unit. This will either allow the car to be started, or keep it immobilised if the breath sample is found to contain alcohol above the permitted legal level.

Antara spec

Vauxhall's new compact sports utility vehicle, the Antara, will arrive in showrooms in July with the promise of electronic stability control, intelligent four-wheel drive and a descent control system standard across the range...

Meanwhile, the top model Antara SE also boasts a built-in Bluetooth phone kit, xenon headlamps, anti-dazzle rear-view mirror, front and rear parking distance sensors and an on-board tyre pressure monitoring system.

The Antara operates as a normal front-wheel drive car in everyday use. The car automatically switches to four-wheel drive when extra traction is needed.

Safety first

The Skoda Roomster has become the first car from the manufacturer to achieve the top five-star crash test occupant protection rating under the European New Car Assessment Programme...

The car also achieved four out of five stars for child occupant safety and two out of a possible four stars for pedestrian protection.

Sat-nav and tracking first for new Dispatch

The all-new Citroen Dispatch is the first compact panel van in the UK to be fitted as standard with Traffic master Smartnav satellite navigation and Trackstar - the GPS stolen vehicle tracking service...


The new Citroen Dispatch

The Dispatch and its sister van, the Peugeot Expert, have ABS and EBA fitted as standard, plus optional electronic stability control with traction control and electronic roll mitigation system.

To provide maximum occupant protection and impact resistance the vehicles' bodies include a reinforced cant rail, a front bumper with an impact absorbing metal beam, high strength front sub frame, reinforced engine mountings and a steering column that retracts by over 80mm in the event of a heavy impact.

A driver's airbag is standard, while front passenger airbag, side airbags and curtain airbags are optionally available. Other key safety features include antisubmarine seat design, height adjustable front seatbelts with pyrotechnic pretensioners and force limiters.

The Traffic master Smartnav equipment features a removable touchscreen, allowing the driver to simply unplug the screen to eliminate any potential theft. Among the other enhancements that accompany the introduction of the touchscreen are quick postcode entry and a previous destination recall of the last fi ve destinations, helping drivers to download routes without delay. In addition the Smartnav system has a congestion charge zone alert that warns drivers as they approach and enter the zone in London.

Robert Handyside, Citroen's commercial vehicle operations manager, said: "Satellite navigation is now one of the most requested options within the fleet market. It delivers annual cost savings of up £2,000.'

ABSPlus can cut braking distances by 20%

Volkswagen's new 13-model Touareg range, which went on sale in March, is the first to feature ABSPlus which, in conjunction with the vehicle's ABS, can cut braking distances by up to 20% on loose or muddy surfaces...

Building further on the Touareg's list of safety equipment is the option of 'front scan' - a segment first. This system uses a series of sensors linked to adaptive cruise control to scan the road ahead for any dangers and can - if necessary - slow the vehicle to a complete halt.

Meanwhile, 'Side scan' senses the area next to the vehicle and acts as a lane changing aid by lighting a small warning lamp in the wing mirrors to warn of the danger of collision. The Touareg's ability off-road is boosted by the addition of new rollover sensors.

Five stars for new Auris

The Toyota Auris, which went on sale in the UK earlier this month, has become the fifth car from the Japanese manufacturer to gain the top five-star award for adult occupant protection, with four stars for child occupant protection and three stars for pedestrian safety making the Corolla replacement amongst the safest vehicles in its segment...


The new Toyota Auris

Auris safety features include up to nine airbags - including the combination of a driver knee airbag (first in class) and a collapsible steering column.

Active safety features include ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution with brake assist standard on all versions. Vehicle stability control, with traction control, is provided on T180 models, and is available as an option on all other versions.

Andrea Formica, senior vice president, sales and marketing and aftersales, Toyota Motor Europe, said: "We have always sought to ensure that every new Toyota enjoys the highest levels of safety. We are very confident that the new Auris will impress customers with its safety performance combined with the distinctive design and engaging driving dynamics."

Toyota is developing a system that will slow down or immobilise a car if steering wheel-mounted sensors detect from the sweat on the driver's hands that they are over the drink'drive limit. If the driver is over the limit, the car will not start. If it is in motion, and sensors detect signs of inebriation in the driver's eyes or driving style, the system will slow the vehicle down and bring it to a halt. Toyota has said that it expects to launch the system in 2009.

Lexus' new flagship makes bold claims

The luxury Japanese manufacturer is making a bold claim with its recently-launched LS 460 flagship model saying 'it is better equipped than any other car on the market to prevent an accident happening, as well as mitigate the consequences should the worst happen'...


The new Lexus LS 460

The car features a number of world firsts, including a rear pre'crash safety system and a driver monitoring system, aimed at initially sensing that the vehicle is about to be involved in a crash and then taking evasive action milliseconds before impact.

The LS 460 is the first car to provide a rear pre'crash safety system, with a radar that senses when a following vehicle is about to collide with the Lexus. Whether moving or stationary, it automatically adjusts the front headrests to provide the best protection against whiplash injury, before impact.

Additionally, an obstacle detection system scans the road ahead by a radar and infra'red camera to warn of any potential collision with another vehicle or pedestrian, day or night at a range of up to 25 metres, while another camera follows the driver's head movement and triggers an alert if eyes are not looking ahead when a collision risk is detected.

When there is a high probability of a collision, an alarm will prompt the driver to take evasive action.

If there is no avoiding an impact, the brakes, front seatbelts and suspension are all primed to deliver peak performance and minimise damage to occupants. Meanwhile, the driver monitoring system sees a miniature camera on the steering column constantly track the movement of the driver's face. If an obstacle is detected in front of the vehicle when the driver is not looking ahead, the pre-crash alarm function will be triggered, and gentle braking applied to alert the driver.

Finally, emergency steering assist improves the vehicle's response to driver steering input, selecting the best gear ratio for rapid evasion manoeuvres and increasing the chances of avoiding a collision. Identical safety features will appear on the manufacturer's new hybrid flagship, the LS 600h, which will be available in the UK later this year.

A safer '5'

Safety features are to the fore on the revised BMW 5-Series saloon and Touring ranges, which will enter showrooms shortly...

Alongside options such as head-up display and night vision, the models can now feature BMW's latest comfort innovation - lane departure warning system. A camera mounted next to the interior mirror monitors the white lines on the road ahead and, if the car crosses the line without obvious intent or without the indicator being used, the driver is notified by a vibration through the steering wheel. The technology is standard on 550i and 535d models - £350 on other models.

Drivers can also now specify active cruise control with 'Stop and Go'. Previously active cruise control would maintain a constant speed while monitoring the traffic ahead, and reacted to a slowing vehicle in front by slowing the BMW.

But, the new system with 'Stop and Go' (a £1,050 option) keeps the car a fixed distance ahead, even in slow moving stop and go traffic situations, bringing the car to a complete stop. If the period of standstill is less than three seconds, the car will resume its programmed speed.

IDIS helps avoid distraction

Volvo's newest models - the C30, S40, V50, C70 and S80 - all feature Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS), which helps drivers avoid potentially fatal distractions...

By prioritising information in the car depending on the current driving situation - delaying an incoming phone call or other nonessential information if the driver is accelerating or manoeuvring, for example - IDIS is effectively an electronic 'personal assistant' that prevents drivers from being interrupted while concentrating on the road in tricky situations.

IDIS consists of two parts - a workload and an information manager. The workload estimator continuously monitors driver activity by checking on such parameters as steering wheel movement, speed variations, reverse gear engagement, infotainment controls and the turn signal indicators.

This information is processed and at a certain workload level, the information manager delays the incoming information - in the case of phone calls by up to five seconds.

For example, if the mobile phone rings on approaching a Tjunction the driver would typically answer the call even though the traffic situation required full attention. This action would put the safety of the driver, any passengers and all other road users immediately at risk.

But, with IDIS in the car, the driver does not receive the incoming call while negotiating the junction. Instead, IDIS accepts the call but silences it and delays alerting the driver for up to five seconds until the turn or workload is lower. After that, calls are handled by either issuing a 'busy' signal or by transferring the call to voice-mail.

The driver's calculated workload level is the basis from which IDIS prioritises the flow of information in the car. Other parameters are time and the ranking of the various categories. Information vital to safety is never delayed. Nor does the driver ever lose any information - it is only presented a few seconds later, when the workload is lower.

In the future, as cars becoming increasingly 'infoloaded' with an increasing number of potential distractions, future generations of IDIS will be updated to reflect the heightened demands concerning calculation of the driver's workload.

World first for new Volvo V70

The all-new Volvo V70 estate will feature a world first - an integrated rear child booster seat with two heights - when the model goes on sale in the UK in September...


The Volvo V70 features an integrated rear child booster seat

The lower setting is intended for children between 115 and 140 cm in height and weighing between 22 and 36 kg, while the upper setting is designed for children measuring 95-120 cm and weighing between 15 and 25 kg. This optional safety feature can be fitted in both outer rear seats and its seatbelt positioning and recalibrated force limiters ensure maximum protection.

The seat's adjustable dual-stage booster cushion means the seatbelt geometry is optimum irrespective of the child's height. The integrated booster cushion is also accompanied by safety belts with specially adjusted force limiters for its smaller and lighter occupants.

Child safety is further improved by the new V70's extended IC inflatable curtain. Now 60 mm longer, this airbag provides superior protection for children of a wide range of heights and sizes.

The initiative follows the introduction of child car restraint laws in the UK in September last year designed to save up to 2,000 child casualties per year (RoadSafe: winter 2006/7).

Rear shunt avoidance

A unique 'City Safety' system that could help drivers avoid 50% of all rear-end, low speed crashes that often happen in urban environments or slow moving traffic could be launched by Volvo within two years...


Statistics reveal that 75% of all reported collisions occur at low speeds of up to 18.7 mph (30 km/h).

'City Safety', is active up to that speed and keeps a watchful eye on traffic up to six metres in front of the car with the help of an optical radar system integrated into the upper part of the windscreen. If a car in front suddenly brakes or is stationary, the system will automatically pre-charge the brakes to help the driver avoid an accident by slowing down in time, or steering away from a potential collision. However, if a collision is imminent, the system will activate the car's brakes automatically.

Ingrid Skogsmo, director of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, said: "The system offers benefits to all involved. For the occupants of the car in front, the risk of whiplash injuries is avoided or reduced, plus it can help reduce or even eliminate the cost of repairs to both vehicles. However, the system does not absolve the driver from driving with adequate safety margins in order to avoid collisions."

Bravo makes it three for five-star Fiat range

The new Fiat Bravo goes on sale in the UK in the summer and has become the third model from the Italian manufacturer to gain a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating for occupant safety following the Grande Punto and Fiat Croma...

The Bravo features an array of passive safety systems including seven airbags and electronic braking and traction control systems include ABS anti-lock braking with electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic stability control.

New R8 sees the light

Audi has seen the light with its all-new £76,725 R8 sports car that features 210 exterior Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights - 24 front-mounted LED driving lamps and 186 LED brake lights - to enhance safety for the driver and surrounding road users. The R8's headlamp units also incorporate 12 LED daytime running lights on each side. The two-seater went on sale this spring but all right-hand-drive production slots have been allocated right through to mid-2008...


Audi UK Director Jeremy Hicks said: "The importance of seeing and being seen on the roads is obviously brought into sharp focus at this time of year, and with its new LED technology our new R8 will be pretty hard to beat on both fronts. With the help of Audi innovations such as the quattro fourwheel- drive system we have always strived to deliver high performance as responsibly and safely as possible, and this hugely impressive lighting technology underlines that fact yet again."

Illegal mobile phone use curb planned

Ford is aiming to curb illegal mobile phone use by offering Bluetooth handsfree technology on almost all of its latest cars and commercial vehicles...

With tougher penalties introduced for the illegal use of hand-held mobile phones in February, Ford has extended the automatically activated Bluetooth technology to cover almost its entire range of vehicles including the 2007 Car of the Year, the Ford S-MAX, and the 2007 International Van of the Year, the Ford Transit.

Other Bluetooth-enabled Ford models boasting the hands-free feature are the Fiesta, Fusion, Focus, Focus C-MAX, Mondeo and Galaxy.

With Bluetooth already standard on most handsets, connection to the vehicle's integrated system is automatic - with no need for extra wiring or unsightly adaptors. An incoming call on the journey prompts the radio or CD to mute and the call is taken wirelessly using the vehicle's audio speakers and in-built microphone.

Crash tests - Renault makes eight top marks

Eight Renault models have been awarded the top five-star occupant protection rating in crash tests undertaken by the European New Car Assessment Programme


Renault conducted its 10,000th crash test at its own Lardy Technical Centre in France

The Modus, Clio, Megane hatch, Megane Coupe-Cabriolet, Scenic, Laguna, Espace and Vel Satis have all achieved the top rating - putting the French marque ahead of any other carmaker in the world. Recently, Renault conducted its 10,000th crash test at its own Lardy Technical Centre in France marking a milestone in the company's 50-plus years of commitment to reduce death and injury on the roads.

Renault created the Centre in the Paris region in 1951 and the company’s engineers have tested nearly 11,000 vehicles (some tests involve two vehicles), made over 100,000 videos, taken almost 500,000 photos and analysed more than one million measurements.

Renault has been conducting virtual crash tests for a number of years to complement reallife testing, using these digital techniques to broaden its research areas. These tests (around 300 real and 4,500 virtual tests a year), along with the precious information gathered at accident sites, are used to design safety systems that correspond with the reality of road accidents.

The Laguna was the first car to achieve a maximum five-star rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP in March 2001, while the Modus proved that small cars could be just as safe as much larger ones, by becoming the first car of its size to receive the same accolade in November 2004. The most recent entrant to the five-star club was new Clio in June 2005.

In addition to protecting vehicle occupants through its active and passive safety systems, Renault continues to work towards reducing vehicle accidents and injuries through its global safety education programme.

Renault launched its international 'Safety for All' initiative in 2000, to raise awareness of road safety among young people. Since then, it has touched more than eight million children in 21 countries. In the UK, where the campaign runs under the banner 'Safety Matters', over 15,000 schools have benefited from the programme, which provides teaching materials to educate primary school children.

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