Automotive: How Technology Impacts Lives on the Road
Automotive and Technology: How Technology Impacts Our Lives on the Road
Automobiles, they transport us from one place to another and are part of our everyday lives, or enjoy the open road. Back when the first car came out, the car only had seats, gear levers, brake and gas pedals, the speedometer, engine, and headlights; although the headlights were there, they were not as bright as one would think, since the brightness was quite low. Ford’s first affordable car: the Model T or commonly known as “Tin Lizzie” as it was the only affordable vehicle in Ford’s lineup in the early 1900s. The Model T is the best example because the car only had seats, gear levers, brake, gas, and headlights are what all cars had back in the early 1900s; there were no seatbelts during that time period. Seatbelts became standard in SABB in 1958. Unlike other automobile manufacturers who offered seatbelts as an optional accessory. Back then, automobiles were quite heavy; since they were made of steel just for safety, which explains why most cars run on 8 cylinders. Today, most of our cars are metal and plastic, instead of steel as they used to be. Because steel is quite heavy, the car needs a lot of horsepower to haul that much weight, and to do that, the engine should be powerful; an 8-cylinder or Dodge’s 8.0L V10 engine. But the questions are: Is steel really that safe? Or would it be more risky for drivers?
In a 2009 IIHS crash test, they have conducted a head on collision with a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu with modern safety equipment with the 1959 Chevrolet Bel-Air; without safety equipment. The Bel-Air proves that a head on collision with the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu, the driver in the Bel-Air would be killed instantly. While in the Malibu, the driver would only suffer a minor knee injury. This proves that even though cars back in the day were made out of steel, there was no safety equipment to protect the driver from a collision. That was in the late 1950s and there were no safety features, as well that seatbelts were not standard equipment in cars; until 1984, when New York passed a law where seatbelts are required to be equipped in all automobiles.
What is the definition of a safety feature? Well, safety feature is defined as “a feature that is designed to insure or increase the safety of the driver and occupants.” Safety Features such as: Air Bags, Blind Spot monitors, forward collision warning systems, front mitigation braking (also known as the automatic emergency braking system), cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and inflatable belts (for rear passengers); are safety features to keep the driver and the occupants safe from collisions. This research is an in-depth exploration into the safety features in cars today, and how the technology improves and impacts our life on the road. Safety features have been evolved, and it will be evolved from time to time.
The first safety feature that came to my attention recently was the rear inflatable seatbelts; even though it was introduced back in 2009 for the selected 2011 models, but was unaware of this feature at the time they first introduced. The salesman at Capitol Ford who gladly assisted and allowed me to test drive a 2015 Ford Explorer XLT; he explained the information that was needed. He said the seatbelts were developed and offers to the selected Ford models like as the Explorer and other models. In my perspective of inflatable belts, it sounds safe; but was it safe enough? Many parents and drivers would have this in case of an impact, their child or passengers would not be injured as much or should we say, they will feel a bit less pain during an impact? According to an online source from Tucson Citizen; before the invention of the inflatable belts, it seems if we should still worry about children in the rear seats during an impact; but rest assured, Donald Lewis, a former NASA research engineer and pyrotechnic specialist; invented this clever safety feature that will increase the safety for rear passengers while on the road, he developed “Inflatable Seatbelts”, somewhat to an airbag but for our chest and torso. Ford says that their inflatable seat belt could reduce crash injuries to rear passengers, according to a source from Wall Street Journal. It does sound safe doesn’t? But the question remains, is it safe for children? My answer is yes, but not for smaller children who use certain child seats that needs installing and securing to the seat of the car.
However, there is a drawback on the inflatable belts; because when installing the child seats, it is likely to cause not only risk to the child, but it may cause damage to the child seat during an impact and that the inflatable belt will play a dangerous role if not properly installed. Which, it was the reason why the inflatable was designed for children who are using a booster seat that will use safety belts, not designed for children who are using special child seats. Which is why some manufactures wouldn’t recommend parents to use the inflatable belts in certain child seats, which needs installing and securing the seat in the car, unless car seats has a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), the purpose for that feature is to tighten the child restraint, and that feature is just two sets of metal bars located where the cushions meet and one bar for the back; like three point belts, this anchors the child seat from the bottom and top; hence three locations to anchor the child seat. Introduced in 2002, many of the automobile manufacturers are required to have the LATCH as standard in all of their 2002 and later models; my 2006 Honda Pilot does have the LATCH, but it seems that they are hidden from view, and it was difficult to access as the metal bars is too deep to reach into.
According to William J. Mitchell and Lawrence D. Burns in their book: Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century, the blind spot monitors are quite recent, because technology is becoming more available for us to use in our lives. In the early 2000s, there weren’t many safety features, the only safety feature that most cars had were anti-lock brake system (ABS), to prevent from locking the wheels when braking. Speaking of today’s safety, every car has a set of airbags; for the front passenger and driver only and side-curtain airbags for all occupants in the vehicle. However, this safety feature alone didn’t reduce the risk as much for the rear passengers. Technology then came into play by adding sensors around the vehicle. The safety for rear passengers however, are still in development and that they are continuing to develop a safety feature to reduce the amount of risk to the rear passengers. The technology in the safety feature such as Blind-Spot Monitor, are still improving to make driving safer. During my earlier test drive with the 2015 Acura MDX with this feature, it really was useful, but it seems odd, because the MDX is a luxury version of the Honda Pilot, yet it doesn’t have the safety features like the Ford Explorer does. Like the cross traffic alert or the front and rear 180° cameras or inflatable belts. Between the Explorer and the MDX, the Explorer is affordable, at the price range of $35k- $55K, with 180° front and rear cameras, and inflatable belts for rear passengers; while the MDX is a luxury SUV, but the price range is $43k-$55k, and this vehicle does not have much safety features, aside from the lane departure, standard safety features like the airbags and structure of the vehicle, and the forward collision, not many features is there to have and it isn’t even worth my money to buy it. Between these two SUVs that have been tested and experienced by me; the MDX is awarded the IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus; while the Explorer, it did equip more safety features than the MDX, with only one drawback when the IIHS tested the 2015 model with the small overlap crash, it got a rating of marginal; that the driver will receive injuries due to the steering column pushed back 13cm according to a study from IIHS. However, between the MDX and the Explorer, many would definitely choose the Explorer because of its safety features along with the affordable price; if they improve the small overlap crash in this upcoming 2016 model, which by then, new technology will be introduced in this vehicle and their brand new Platinum trim will have the inflatable seatbelt as standard; this car is worth my time and money purchase it as it has everything needed to protect my passengers. Not many automobiles have this feature yet. This could be the reason why Ford is America’s best-selling brand, for their safety features and affordable prices.
Speaking of safety features, the latest Ford Explorer, the 2016 model; is a good example for safety features, because one, it is affordable, and two at the estimated price range of $39,000-$55,000; they have many of the features available; luxury cars may or may not have this available in any of their models. This seems to be the better deal in the Ford Explorer and that other vehicles don’t have much safety features as Ford. Most SUVs do not have a front and rear 180° cameras, and inflatable seatbelts. Honda, Toyota, or other automobile manufacturers may not have this feature, except Ford’s selected models. If drivers wanted these features; excluding inflatable belts, front, and rear 180° cameras, but safety features that the manufacturer offers, they do have to pay more if they want to add that equipment to the standard vehicle, rather than paying for the top trim model where every of those safety features are standard for that specific trim level, along with the other options that may not be needed. Ford’s line of cars, it seems that they pretty much have most of the safety features as options. Unlike many luxury cars like Mercedes-Benz, they are expensive with that technology for safety as a standard option. While Ford, is pushing that technology down so drivers and/or car shoppers don’t have to spend more than $60k on a luxury car that has those features as standard. In Ford’s Platinum trim, the price is estimated less than $55k. Rather than buying a luxury car or the top trim level that has all of the features and paying a lot more than $60k, the Ford Explorer has the Platinum level which has everything you need that is under $55K; back in 2015, many shoppers purchased the expensive package of the sport trim, that is the sign that customers were ready for the higher trim. Isn’t that marvelous? To have safety features and a car that is well equipped for under $60k, it’s better off than buying a luxury car that costs more than $50k, but isn’t well equipped as many of us thought. To the luxury cars, it is ridiculous and say that they are expensive, yet not well equipped like Ford; to my perspective, Ford is affordable, and they are well equipped like a luxury car.
Ford’s BLIS (Blind spot Information System) is offered as an option, but it will include inflatable belts in a package. Yes, it is quite helpful, but as mentioned earlier, not many parents would want to have inflatable belts to be installed for infants (unless the child restraint manufacturers says it is safe for children to use the inflatable belts for their products) otherwise, parents would have to use the LATCH system for the child restraints that need installing.
Like most blind spot monitors in other automobile manufacturers, they only let drivers know and remind to caution when changing lanes, however, it’s best to double check by checking the blind spot as well, because in my perspective, sometimes the system will encounter a glitch, it is best to double check. Before this feature, many drivers would be using a blind spot mirror; eventually, blind spot mirrors isn’t helpful as much in my perspective, because at night, the cars behind you may shine your blind spot mirror and will cause you to have poor sight of your blind spot. Mercedes’s technology of Lane Keeping Assist; it will automatically vibrate the steering wheel, and/or braking on any of the front wheels to keep you in the lane. Now, this technology is a” must have” in many vehicles, because there are some drivers encounter some trouble staying in our lanes, though Ford has a feature similar to this; but will post a message to the driver recommending to rest if the driver continues to drive unsafe, but we should know that the safety features are not a substitute of how most of us drive.
The Lane Departure Warning is useful when you are on long, highway trips. This system, however, is quite new. Before the Lane Departure Warning, we would have to pay a lot of attention to the road so we wouldn’t jump into any lanes or colliding with anyone. Today, many of us don’t put much faith in technology just yet until it does not encounter a glitch, but during my test drive on the MDX, the system does work and that did cause me to put some faith, but it is best to double check and make sure that there are no cars on my blind spot before changing lanes.
Many manufacturers are moving collisions warning systems will move into the mainstream, According to NY Daily News, they said that some forward collision systems are still new, not all of the forward collision systems will work, some will stop working when it is nighttime, or other problems, though this will not substitute for smart and safe driving, it’s just to remind or warn the driver before impact. This is a good thing for us as a reminder, but personally some of us would prefer to only use the system as a reminder. It is good for a reminder, but it is up to us to make that safe driving decision. The Forward Collision Warning in Ford is part of the BLIS package. John Neff from autoblog.com stated in 2009 that selected Ford and Lincoln 2009 models, this technology like the outboard inflatable belts, will be available in their models. How this function works is by radar; the sensors will detect what is in front and rear of the car. If the system senses contact with something that may happen, Neff stated that “It will sound an alarm and activate a warning light on the windshield, at the same time, it will “pre-charge” the brakes and activate a brake-assist function in case the driver needs to slam on the brakes; if the radar system senses that a collision will happen, it will get the brakes ready for a panic stop.”
Overall, the technologies for safety features in automobiles are currently advancing, to improve automotive safety to drivers and passengers. Blindspot monitor, Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Forward Collision Warning. These safety features are now part of the competitive between Ford and the rest of the automobile manufacturers, With Ford’s Inflatable Seat Belt, what else will be added to the safety features when we drive on the road? Is there more to come? In my feeling and my own perspective about this, yes, there are more to come, but will it be useful for us on the road? This question remains unanswered, and left to the future to decide.
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