New safety features highlighted at auto show


The 2004 Volvo S40, shown Monday at the North American International Auto Show, features the Intelligent Driver Information System, which monitors the driver's actions and blocks distractions if conditions are difficult.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 5, 2004 at 11:15 p.m.
DETROIT - Safety features are never the talk of the North American International Auto Show, where the buzz is about horsepower and eye-catching design.
But manufacturers have added plenty of safety features to their new models, from the rollover protection system in Infiniti's QX56 to the energy-absorbing steering column in Ford's Freestyle crossover. They're hoping consumers notice, even though safety features are something no one ever wants to use.
"These are not cheap technologies. We've got to make people aware" so there's more incentive for research, said Mark Chernoby, vice president of advanced vehicle engineering at DaimlerChrysler AG, as he stood next to a strip of ultrasound sensors on the back of Chrysler's Town and Country minivan. The sensors can detect things when the vehicle is moving slowly, he said, but will need more development before they can work at any speed.
Many new models meet a federal mandate to include weight sensors in the front passenger seat. If a passenger is too small, the air bags must turn off or deploy lightly. Twenty percent of new models must have that feature this year; all vehicles must have the sensors by 2006.
Volvo is introducing the Intelligent Driver Information System on its $25,000 S40 sedan, which will go on sale this spring. The system monitors the driver's actions and diverts incoming telephone calls if conditions are difficult. It also blocks vehicle-related distractions such as the engine light.
Bjorn Lofving, Volvo's safety manager, said the company wants to see how drivers respond to the system before taking it further.

Taking notice AT A GLANCE

  • All vehicles must have weight sensors in the front passenger seat by 2006. If a passenger is too small, the air bags must turn off or deploy lightly.
  • Manufacturers hope consumers notice the new technology, even though safety features are something no one ever wants to use.
  • Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

    ▲ Return to Top