Nov 092017
 

When it comes to purchasing a car, safety features are one of the main influences on many buyers’ decisions.

Modern cars are incredibly advanced, even compared to models that are just twenty years old. With further innovations such as fully autonomous vehicles imminent, vehicle safety will take on an even more significant role and be under more scrutiny than ever.

In this post, Warranty Direct highlights some of the key automotive safety regulations and devices, which have allowed manufacturers to develop the technologically advanced models of today.

The early days

The first landmark motorcar was the Ford Model T, produced between 1908 and 1927. However, one of the earliest breakthroughs in car safety came in 1934, when General Motors performed the first ever crash test.

The advent of testing led to several developments through the 1940s which are still used today, such as the padded dashboard, the safety cage and the introduction of disc brakes.

This increased focus on safety led to the UN establishing the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations in 1958, creating an international approach to safety standards.

Major milestones

From airbags to ABS, we catalogue some of the key motoring safety innovations below:

1959 – The 3-point seat belt, first created by Volvo, has been compulsory in every British car produced since 1967, preventing thousands of injuries from accidents every year.

1966 – When anti-lock brakes (ABS) were featured on a production car for the first time, the Jensen FF. The system was adapted from aircraft technology and in 1978 Mercedes developed this further with an electronic system in its S-Class model.

1981 – Although airbags were sold by General Motors in the ‘70s, the Mercedes S-Class of ’81 adopted the system still used today. Airbags are found on all modern cars, even on the outside of some types to protect pedestrians!

1995 Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is now fitted to every car on sale and was again pioneered by the Mercedes S-Class range. By using electronic sensors, braking power on each wheel is balanced to help counteract over or understeering. It is said to have reduced fatal accidents by 25 percent and wet-weather collisions by 32 percent.

1996 Euro NCAP was established and with it came its five-star safety rating, which is created through rigorous testing and provides a standard all new cars are held to. The rating has been updated several times and as of 2014, it’s now a two-tier system.

1998 – Advanced active head restraints first appeared across Saab’s range, which is proven to help prevent or limit back and neck injuries in rear-end collisions.

2005 – Lane departure warning systems first appeared in the Citroën C4, C5 and C6, using infrared sensors to monitor if a driver is moving out of a lane.

2015 – Volvo gives a glimpse of what’s to come, releasing the XC90 which has a ‘City Safety’ package, with advanced pedestrian detection and technology to prevent motorcycle and bicycle collisions.

The future is bright

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication is touted as the most important new safety feature, allowing cars to ‘talk’ to each other, avoiding accidents by transmitting information on speed and GPS positions.

Ford Motor Company has previewed driver health monitoring through seat belts and steering wheels equipped with vital statistics notifying a car if it needs to pull over, shut down or alert emergency services.

These are just some of the ways manufacturers are looking to modify and improve future vehicles. Whilst it’s still not clear which features the majority of companies will adopt permanently, it’s obvious these developments could make our cars smarter and safer than ever before.

  7 Responses to “The History of Car Safety”

  1. What a load of claptrap we want to drive not get taken for a ride

  2. Hmmmmmmm… I’m reminded of the oft-used phrase that the road to hell is paved with good intentions! I daresay that much of what is listed in this article is laudable, and in some cases desirable. However, as a driver of various vehicles over almost a fifty year period, I find that the system of warnings in modern vehicles pretty distracting, but I suppose that I can live with that. Where I draw the line is when technology becomes intrusive and interferes with my control of the vehicle.

    I take it you understand that I’m not looking forward to autonomous vehicles!!

  3. After being in an accident I am grateful that manufacturers are making cars safer. The seat belt stopped my wife going through the winder screen.

  4. I’m not convinced that safety is a significant issue with car buyers as they have come to expect high standards from every manufacture – but wasn’t this all down to Ralph Nader in the first place.

  5. After a prang in 1985 (aquaplaned) I vowed never to buy another car without ABS, although it made no difference in that crash. A seat belt almost certainly saved my life in an argument with an wandering HGV in 1989 too, so from my point of view safety improvements are very welcome, although I still won’t drive a Volvo.

  6. Whilst these safety measures have saved many lives, they have also killed many people who would still be alive today. Probably saved 9 lives for everyone lost by the new technology at a guess? Aggregated they have also added significantly to ‘vehicle weight’ and hence CO2 emissions and global warming. Many are also extremely expensive to fix when they go wrong, or more importantly on the blink, works one day but not the next time one starts the vehicle.

    One recent fault being a wheel sensor going on the blink, one finds that the electronic hand brake does not work ( so if one needs to park on a slope, best to carry a brick or a block of wood to prevent the car rolling away!) also the ABS does not work. One wonders how such a system ever passed EU vehicle build directives? The same goes for the electric powered steering, when the engine stalls, then the power assistance seems to cut out instantly. I was travelling at 100 mph when the engine failed on a car (in Germany), one wonders how one could steer to a stop if on a mountainous or curvy road? Fortunately we coasted into the next lay-by some mile ahead, and were rescued by a recovery team, which had the car delivered to the local franchised dealership and us in a local hotel within 1 hr 15 minutes at 8 pm on a Monday evening (all very Germanic efficient). Its as if the manufacturers to save money, have interconnected all the systems, rather than keep them independent of each other.

    The most recent ‘fault’ was a message coming up to say my ‘engine was faulty’. Well I have driven another 5,000 miles since and the engine and everything works fine passed MOT, and the message has not re-occurred. When enquiring at a franchised dealer what this fault message meant, they had no idea. Adding they could connect the ECU up a computer and tell me for £50 + VAT.

    Whilst the idea of autonomous driving is an attractive goal, I thought of the same for motorway use when a teenager in the early 1970s (with magnets). Recently my speedo suddenly gave up the ghost and goes blank as the vehicle approaches a 30mph speed limit (and does not start working again until the following day)!! Not an easy job to repair (something that’s working fine most of the time), £900 + for fitting a new speedo!!! This probably holds true for autonomous driving once the vehicle is say over 6 years old, will it be reliable in its autonomous mode, and tell you when it is not in advance?

    Many new fittings have become more reliable with experience in their manufacture (perhaps with the exception of Taka air bags), such as central locking, electric powered windows, indicator stalks etc.

    I recently walked around the Frankfurt Motor show in September and marvelled at the complexity underneath the modern motor vehicle!! Most vehicles today are not purchased these days (as a product to love and cherish), but for ‘ownership for a limited period’ perhaps 4 years on a lease purchase scheme. Many motor manufacturer’s are offering schemes to scrap vehicles only 8 or so years old. That might be good for the motor manufacturer, their employees and for many in wider society in general; but not for ones pocket, as depreciation is often one of the highest expenses, and if the economic life of a vehicle is to be reduce from 15 years to 8 years, then the rate of annual depreciation must be greater or the initial cost significantly lower.

  7. Having undertaken a driver alertness course, surely the human behind the wheel should also be “updated” with a refresher of the skills needed for driving on today’s conjested roads as well as knowing when not to speed and to be courteous to others all around you. Some of the developments in modern cars can make life a little bit too easy and on long journeys can make the journey boring leading to loss of concentration, so it is better in some respects that we should be able to do what is needed when driving without too much distraction.

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