By Christopher Tan
SINGAPORE - Car safety systems are getting so advanced and prevalent that the adage "flying is safer than driving" may soon be overturned.
Volvo's newly unveiled V40 boasts pedestrian airbag - an industry first. In a frontal collision with a pedestrian, the car deploys an external airbag at the base of the windscreen that also raises the rear end of the bonnet, cushioning the victim and reducing the severity of his injuries.
The car even tries to avoid the person in the first place, thanks to Pedestrian Detection. Using a radar in the front grille and a camera in front of the rear-view mirror, the device detects pedestrians in the car's path and warns the driver with a buzzer and a flashing light.
If the driver does not react and a collision is imminent, Pedestrian Detection automatically activates the brakes. It can stop the car completely if it is not travelling faster than 35kmh and reduce the force of the impact at higher speeds.
Elsewhere, Toyota is working on a host of safety systems that allow cars to retard acceleration if the driver steps on the wrong pedal or engages the wrong gear.
Like Ford Motor, the Japanese company is testing a system which allows cars to "communicate" with other vehicles, infrastructure and even pedestrians. If successful, it reduces the risk of accidents which happen because of blind spots - for instance, a car rounding a corner to find a stalled vehicle in its path. Or overtaking a long trailer on the highway without spotting a small motorcycle in front of it.
The next Mercedes-Benz S-class, which will be launched next year, will have a slew of new safety features.
Distronic Plus with Steering Assist helps the driver keep in lane. The radar-based system can even follow the vehicle in front in slow-moving traffic.
Brake Assist system S with Cross-Traffic Assist is able to detect cross traffic and pedestrians, and if necessary, boost the braking power applied by the driver accordingly.