Airbags, brakes and sensors are getting wise to the danger of the crash after the crash.
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Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
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Somewhere between 25% and 40% of all car crashes aren't one crash, but several. Your current car probably isn't smart enough to figure that out, but your next one might be.
Watch this: New tech braces you for the dirty little secret of car accidents
Meet the MIC Multiple Impact Crashes (MICs) happen when your car has one impact and then hits another car, a stationary object or flips on its roof. The most common is, of course, the rear-end collision that results in another one, but the combinations are endless and impossible to anticipate in all those crash-test videos you've watched with morbid curiosity.
A 2018 study of crash data by ProBiomechanics and Ford safety guru Henry Scott found that two-impact crashes account for 20% of all collisions but also 30% of all severe injury incidents. It's even more stark for three-impact crashes. They account for just 5% of all collisions but 13% result in severe injury.
Helpless airbags One problem is that your car's airbag control module (ACM) can get confused by multiple impacts that happen literally in the blink of an eye. The ACM may fire the airbags too early, too late or not at all. Hyundai appears to be the first carmaker to develop an ACM that can roll with the punches, calculating force, angles, and position of occupants in real time to fire airbags optimally in the fray.
The deadly drift Your first impact may be fairly benign but if it sends you drifting into the path of an oncoming car it gets malignant, and fast. Ford and Continental have developed new post-crash braking tech that prevents the deadly drift by detecting the immediate aftermath of a collision and applying the brakes for a brief time. That stops your ricochet, but doesn't render the car immovable for emergency responders. It debuted standard on the 2019 Ford Edge.
Even without the latest car, you can replicate some of these benefits for free with good driving technique:
Wheels straight When waiting to turn left at an intersection, don't pre-cock your wheels in that direction. Keep them straight until you actually start your turn. If you do get rear-ended, you are less likely to be propelled into oncoming traffic.
Brakes on Resist the temptation to let off your brakes and shift into neutral at a long stop. Applied brakes and engaged gears create some useful opposition to the force of being hit.