TROY, MIAt the WWJ radio station business breakfast today, Continental Automotive Systems, North America, President and CEO Bill Kozyra said that the auto industry is in the midst of a safety revolution. He then presented Continental's vision of how the development of active safety technology will help save lives.
Kozyra noted that a new generation of technology through improved sensors, processors, and general electronic capabilities is giving drivers the ability to avoid critical situations in everyday traffic. "Managing the seconds before a crash is the target of opportunity in motor vehicle safety," said Kozyra. "The future will be an advanced combination of active and passive safety." Active safety systems help drivers avoid accidents, while passive systems are those that lessen the effects of a crash.
Kozyra outlined Continental's goal of applying proactive technology through an integrated, comprehensive assistance system to provide drivers and occupants with the best possible support and help prevent the occurrence of crashes and mitigate injuries. This vision, he added, is demonstrated in Continental's total vehicle safety concept. "The integration of active and passive safety into a total safety approach advocated by NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] will address those areas of the traffic safety picture where significant gains can be made with real world solutions," Kozyra said.
This total vehicle safety concept uses Electronic Stability Control (ESC) as the foundation, with what the company says is its credibility in the market providing the opportunity to add more "intelligence." "NHTSA recently found ESC reduces single vehicle crashes in passenger cars by 35% and in SUVs by 67%," Kozyra highlighted. "NHTSA was stunned by the results of their own study and I'm paraphrasing, but [NHTSA Administrator] Jeffrey Runge, M.D. called ESC 'the best thing since seatbelts.' " Other studies have reached similar conclusions, Kozyra noted. He also applauded the efforts of several automakers, including Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chrysler, and GM to make ESC a standard feature on many or all of their vehicles in the coming years.
"The capabilities of electronic stability control and the power of electronics and software allow for the addition of new functions and the integration of those functions so they operate as a total system," said Kozyra. "These new functions offer the driver new tools to address the problem with fatalities caused by rollovers, rear-end and side collisions, lane departures, and off-the-road crashes." He noted another study that found that 17% of accidents could be prevented if vehicles were equipped with crash avoidance systems that helped overcome driver error.
Continental, a major supplier of ESC, says using this technology will help reach the Department of Transportation's goal of reducing fatalities to 1.0 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled by 2008. Combining the success of ESC with the benefits of other crash avoidance systems, and integrating the protection of passive safety technology into a total safety system, Continental says can create a virtual safety cocoon for drivers and occupants.
The company has further advanced this approach. For the past several months, Continental has been demonstrating a vehicle using average customers that shows this concept in real-life driving situations. "A vehicle that, like a human body, has a central computer that gathers data, synthesizes it, activates and controls the electronic reflexes," explained Kozyra. "Tests of a vehicle equipped with total vehicle safety technology showed we could achieve a 15% reduction in braking distance by using area sensors integrated with the brakes."
"The goal of 1.0 fatality per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is a bold and courageous move, one drawn with confidence in the methodology needed to achieve it," Kozyra concluded. "Our challenge will be to link the information generated both by existing systems and those yet to come, put them to the task of saving lives, and convince consumers of their value."