By Brian Douglas
Edited by Kevin Massy
(May 25, 2007)
Ever since Edward J. Claghorn secured a U.S. patent
Car safety technology has come a long way since the first seatbelt.
for the seatbelt in 1885, safety has been a key consideration for automakers. Passive safety features--those designed to minimize the impact of collisions--proliferated throughout the 20th century. In 1956, Ford equipped its cars with the first factory-installed lap belts, and a few years later, in 1959, Volvo's Nils Bohlin created the first three-point lap and shoulder belt. Airbags arrived in 1973 with Chevrolet's installation of the technology in government fleet cars, but it took at least another decade for the technology to become widespread in the commercial market.
With the integration of the microprocessor into car designs, manufacturers began to see potential for active safety features, which were designed to preempt and prevent accidents before they happen. Sensors placed at key points in the drivetrain and around the chassis are able to relay information about current driving conditions and vehicle dynamics back to a central control unit, which in turn communicates with electronically controlled braking and throttle systems to intervene and prevent accidents. Life-saving safety systems such as antilock brakes, traction control, and more recently, electronic stability control have all been the products of the computerized car.
And the digital age continues to spawn ever more advanced safety systems, which rely on a host of technologies that strive to make the car safer. Advances in laser, radar, and range-finding cameras have formed the basis of the next wave of innovations in automotive safety through the implementation of systems such as lane-departure warning and collision-mitigation systems.
In the future, car safety is likely to rely more heavily on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology, which enables cars to communicate with each other like nodes in a network.