Saturday 22 October 2016

Why we need help to understand the ABCs of many safety items in our cars

Published 27/07/2016 | 02:30

People are less likely to invest in safety elements of their car, according to research
People are less likely to invest in safety elements of their car, according to research

Research has shown that people are more likely to pay extra for sat nav and digital radio than invest in safety elements in a car.

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Safety can be boring, remote and intangible. A sat nav (well some of them) can be helpful.

I think no one is really looking at explaining safety. Maybe that's unfair. Maybe they are. But they are the exceptions, I'd suggest.

It is daunting for seller and buyer, when they face a constant stream of acronyms (from ABS to ESC), in the brochures that accompany our new cars.

Does anyone read them? Never mind understanding them.

Even the experts get muddled, sometimes, and that is partly because different companies give different names to much-the-same technologies and devices.

Last week we mentioned (in Shortcuts) that Co-op Insurance research found that buyers hadn't a clue what the different bits and pieces of 'safety' mean or do.

Their research found there was far too much jargon.

A high proportion (63pc) wanted clear safety information included in all car documentation when they are buying their car.

Several 'Motors' readers were on to me to say they totally agreed. They feel it is all way above their heads. Some said they just take the maker's word that there is a lot of 'safety stuff'.

I got in touch with some people at the famous Thatcham Research Centre in England - these are real experts in vehicle safety technology, vehicle security and crash repair.

They agreed - there is "a tonne of confusion". So, to help in a small way to maybe reduce that, we agreed on a short list, compiled by them, of different acronyms with a brief explanation of each (edited my me).

I think there are more complicated ones than these, but maybe, it's better to start simple.

The more I read through them the more self-explanatory they appeared.

See what you think and if you have any queries on others, please let me know.

AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking)*

This is a highly effective safety technology which monitors traffic conditions ahead. It automatically brakes if you fail to respond to an emergency situation - such as another vehicle or pedestrian.

ESC (Electronic Stability Control)

Prevents you from losing control in a skid. It automatically applies small amounts of braking to individual wheels to help bring your car back under control.

FCW (Forward Collision Warning)

This detects potential obstacles in your path and alerts you. It can also support you by boosting the strength of braking to help avoid a crash.

ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control)

This is an advance on traditional cruise control. Along with keeping a set vehicle speed, sensors also monitor the vehicle ahead to maintain a safe distance. If another car pulls into the gap between you and the car ahead, your car will brake to maintain the original distance.

Queue Assist

Builds on ACC as it can control the level of braking and acceleration. In some cases it can provide automated steering inputs in slow moving traffic.

LDW (Lane Departure Warning)

These systems warn you (audibly or head-up display) if you have accidentally strayed across the lane markings. If you indicate before changing lanes, the warnings are deactivated.

LKAS (Lane Keep Assist Systems)

These systems actively steer the car back into the lane during normal driving, if your car has unintentionally begun to cross the markings.

Blind Spot Warning

Fairly obvious. It indicates when another vehicle is in that dangerous blind spot over your shoulder. It helps prevent or mitigate collisions when you are changing lanes.

Front Side View Cameras

A development of reversing cameras, they are integrated into the front bumper on both sides. They provide you with an immediate overview of traffic conditions to the sides of the car when pulling out of an obscured junction or gateway.

Night Vision

One of the more self-explanatory systems. They can 'see' further into the distance than the driver with normal vehicle lighting by using infrared sensors to detect heat contrasts. The realistic images are displayed in the driver's line of sight for early recognition, typically on the navigation system or dashboard.

AFL (Adaptive Forward Lighting)

They automatically adapt to changing road conditions, such as switching between main and dipped beam for oncoming traffic, or changing beam pattern between urban and rural conditions, or swivelling into a corner to illuminate a bend. A real boon at night.

TSR (Traffic Sign/Signal Recognition)

Using a forward looking camera, this system will read traffic signs such as those indicating speed limits or overtaking restrictions, and will show these prominently in the instrument display.

Surround View

Gives the driver a bird's-eye virtual view of the car and its surroundings. This is a great help with visibility around the vehicle, especially in tight parking, or narrow entrances.

Parking Aids

They can identify suitable parallel and bay parking spaces. Some can do the necessary steering, and in some cases, speed and braking control to manoeuvre the vehicle into the space without you doing much at all.

* Thatcham also has an online AEB fitment guide - aeb-fitment - where you can check if your car has AEB as standard, or optional, and what the manufacturer calls it.

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