Car ESP to provide more driver safety

Car makers are developing increasingly sophisticated driver-assistance systems to boost safety, comfort and the fun factor.

Some technology that is already standard in many vehicles, such as ESP (electronic stability programme), can significantly reduce the number of injuries and deaths in road accidents, according to tests conducted by the German technical testing authority Dekra and the Swiss Winterthur insurance company.

The two organisations have concluded that a quarter of all accidents with seriously injured persons and 60% of fatal accidents involve cars rolling over. Introducing ESP in all vehicles could significantly reduce these figures, says Anton Brunner from the Winterthur accident-research department.

In addition, about 60% of rear-end collisions and nearly a third of head-on collisions can be avoided if the driver brakes half-a-second earlier, according to Joerg Ahlgrimm from Dekra. Braking assistance systems would be the solution.

“Development of such systems is still at an early stage,” says Christian Frueh, who is responsible for new assistance systems at Mercedes-Benz.

Vehicles equipped with electronic sensors, which would automatically engage emergency braking to avoid such accidents, are currently being tested.

Volvo recently unveiled a concept vehicle that recognises obstacles with the help of radar sensors and a rear-view camera, automatically activating the brakes if the driver fails to react.
But a Volvo spokesperson conceded that “much development work” is still needed before the system is ready for mass production.

Mercedes is offering the Pre-Safe braking system in some of its premium models later this year. It is based on radar sensor and distance control, activating 40% of the maximum braking power in an emergency.

“However, the driver is in addition given an optical and acoustic warning to react,” according to Frueh. If the driver reacts to the warning, maximum braking power is immediately available.

Development of the assistance systems, however, is aimed at preventing such dangerous situations from resulting in the first place.

BMW recently presented its RoadPreview system. It taps information from the car navigation system, providing the driver with information on the radius of upcoming corners.

Such systems would later even warn the driver when it is too dangerous to overtake. Every 10th serious accident on European country roads results during an overtaking procedure, according to BMW’s Jan Loewenau.

Despite the support from such assistance systems, the driver would not be liberated entirely from his/her responsibility. “Electronics can make routine tasks easier, monitor the surroundings and give warnings, shorten the reaction time and reduce risks. But the driver still remains the boss,” says Mercedes researcher Frueh.—Sapa-dpa

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