What's The Best Anti-Crash System For Cars?

from the passive-or-active? dept

Following on the story from earlier today about uncrashable planes, and a similar story a few months back discussing Honda and Toyota’s crash avoidance systems for cars, comes this article that looks in more detail at what is the best automobile anti-crash system. It sounds like many car manufacturers are experimenting with such systems, and no one is really sure which make the most sense. The Toyotas on sale in Japan with crash avoidance systems aren’t doing that well, and the article quotes someone saying they’d rather have leather seats than a crash avoidance system. Personally, I think they sound great, and I’d certainly want one over leather seats. Still, there are plenty of questions about implementation. Do you want one that initiates things – alerting the driver of a potential crash and slowing down the car? Or should it only kick in once the driver hits the brakes? Should all cars and drivers have the same system? Maybe young drivers need one kind of system, while experienced drivers can use another. Apparently, researchers at a number of different car makers are exploring all of these questions. Hopefully they come up with some good answers.

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Comments on “What's The Best Anti-Crash System For Cars?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Afraid of lawsuits

There are two types of collision avoidance technologies being tested by the Big 3: passive and active. Passive essentially blurts out a warning (bell, whistle, lights, voice, etc.) telling the driver he is about to back out over his child’s bike. Active, as one might expect, takes over the steering, brakes, etc. to avoid the collision.

Besides the cost issue, one main concern with active systems are LAWSUITS. Example: What about when the system fails? If it saves 1000 and fails once, guess who still gets stuck with a huge lawsuit. I suppose this could be overcome with enough testing, etc. and the lawsuit costs built into the system. I don’t have the case studies on airbags or ABS (I assume automakers are sued when those fail, although I think they get some legal cover in cases when they are government mandated)

Market acceptance is another – I still can’t believe you can buy a car without anti-lock brakes and save a few hundred bucks on some models.

Doug says:

Re: Afraid of lawsuits

I still can’t believe you can buy a car without anti-lock brakes and save a few hundred bucks on some models.

That shouldn’t be suprising. ABS systems trade longer stopping distances for controllability. They cater to the lowest common denominator. ABS brakes help poor drivers keep control in a panic stop, but ABS merely lengthens stopping distances for good drivers. How many people consider themselves to be poor drivers and how many consider themselves to be good drivers?

Beyond the psychological aspect, there is no clear “scientific” evidence whether ABS systems are “good” or “bad”. The NHTSA says that they’re good if drivers are trained how to use them properly, although one has to wonder if drivers couldn’t be trained to use non-ABS brakes just as well.

A 1996 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that occupants of ABS-equipped cars were more likely to be killed in an accident. I suppose that I should feel good that although I’m 65% more likely to be killed in a single-vehicle accident in wet conditions because my car has ABS, I’m reducing the hazard to pedestrians and bicyclists in that situation by 10%.

Fortunately I seldom drive in wet conditions, so my chance of being killed in an accident only goes up 23% because of my ABS, and my ABS poses only a negligible increase in death risk to others on the road.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Afraid of lawsuits

I often hear that ABS makes stopping distances “longer”, but that’s a little misleading, since in most cases where ABS kicks in, a non-ABS driver will skid – losing control and increasing the distance they travel.

Still, I agree that more people need to understand how both ABS and non-ABS braking work. No matter which you have, you should practice emergency stops in parking lots to learn what happens. I know of too many people who freak out when the ABS kicks in and release the brake pedal, assuming that it’s “broken”.

Doug says:

Re: Re: Re: Afraid of lawsuits

in most cases where ABS kicks in, a non-ABS driver will skid – losing control and increasing the distance they travel

That’s the “lowest-common-demoninator” argument. I’ve made hundreds of panic-stops over the years, and never have I lost control of the vehicle. And I don’t really consider myself to be a “great driver” (certainly my accident history in my younger years suggested otherwise).

Also, the notion that losing control and skidding will increase the stopping distance is, according to the NHTSA anyway, incorrect:

A vehicle yawing out of control with its wheels locked may stop in a very short distance, while a stable vehicle (its directional control maintained throughout the duration of the stop) may require a very long distance to complete its stop.

That said, the NHTSA document cited above has a lot of interesting information on ABS performance, and the discrepancy between test-track and real-life results.

Numerous crash data statistical analyses conducted over the past few years… indicate the apparent increase in single-vehicle crashes involving passenger cars equipped with four-wheel ABS almost completely offsets the safety advantage such vehicles have over their conventionally-braked counterparts.

Another interesting note:

This study also establishes that antilock brake systems include compromises of stopping distance versus vehiclar stability. Most antilock brake systems maintain vehicular stability while braking by minimizing excessive yaw. In a curve, this stability may be created by sacrificing the shortest attainable stopping distance. With this said, most test vehicles… stopped in shorter distances with ABS… for maneuvers that involved braking and steering…

And finally:

We believe this study has established that ABS braking performance deficiencies are not responsible for the apparent increase in ABS-equipped, single-vehicle, run-off-the-road crashes.

So… they say it works fine on the test track, and still don’t know why people are more likely to die in ABS-equipped cars than in non-ABS cars. Finding out what’s up is still on NHTSA’s to-do list:

It had been predicted that ABS could prevent numerous crashes, assuming drivers knew how to use the systems. However, statistical analyses of real-world collision databases suggest that the introduction of ABS does not reduce the number of automobile crashes where it was thought ABS would have proved most effective. Crash studies show increased involvement of ABS-equipped vehicles in single-vehicle crashes and less involvement in multi-vehicle crashes. Specifically the increase has been in single-vehicle run-off-road crashes such as rollovers or impacts with fixed objects.

Anyway, based on the above I’ll concede the point that stopping distances don’t necessarily suffer with modern ABS systems (the ones tested in that report). But ABS is still a net-negative in terms of safety.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

Prevention. 1) Remove the older folks (and younger) from the roads who are no longer cognizant enough to respond to rapidly changing conditions or even stay in their own lanes.
2) Make using a cell phone or other devices requiring the attention of the drivers hands and eyes illegal. A minimum 10k fine, with up to 5 years in prison. Should a life be lost due to a drivers inattention, that person should be held accountable for the deceased families needs until they pass away.
3) Make car inspections mandatory yearly and if the car fails it can’t leave the inspection station. Repairs/replacements must come to the inspection station to make the car meet safe driving conditions.
4) Make speeding a felony crime.

Prevention. works.

Israel says:

The way it shoud work

I have developed a system called CAPS (Car Accident prevention System). The system should be in every car to prevent car accidents. I am sure that if that system CAPS will be installed in all the cars, we can save 99% car accidents. the idea of CAPS is to prevent (not alert) which means that the driver car drive the car as he likes until he will make a mistake, then the system CAPS will take control and corect the mistake on real time.so the would not be able to speed as he like or pass on red lights or bypass on white line or to put too much weight (trucks) and so on. the idea is to PREVENT and PREVENT…..and PREVENT.

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