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New safety systems scan all directions for crash potential

Automotive News reports on new advanced crash avoidance systems from TRW and Delphi.

Automotive News

FRANKFURT--For suppliers of safety equipment, the next big thing is 360-degree collision avoidance.

TRW is developing a radar network that will detect oncoming vehicles from any direction--front, side, or rear. At each corner of the vehicle, a radar unit monitors objects and transmits the data to a central computer.

Delphi Automotive is working on a similar system that would rely on a radar unit at each corner, plus a unit in front and another in back. The Delphi system also would incorporate cameras.

If TRW's unit detects a possible collision straight ahead, it could automatically hit the brakes. If it detects a threat to the side or rear, it would prepare the airbags to deploy. The unit, called AC1000, probably will enter production around 2015, Martin Thoone, TRW's vice president of electronics engineering, told Automotive News at the Frankfurt auto show.

"We are in advanced development with major automakers," Thoone said.

The system relies on radars that employ so-called patch antennas that allow them to scan for objects in two directions, providing a wider field than conventional radar units used for intelligent cruise control.

Technically, the most difficult scenario to monitor is a side-impact collision. For example, if another vehicle suddenly speeds out of an alley onto the street, the radar would have very little time to warn the motorist.

In such situations, Thoone said, it might not be possible to take evasive action by automatically hitting the brakes. But the computer could still prepare the side airbags to deploy, thus protecting the passengers.

Delphi is working to develop its own system, says Michael Thoeny, the company's engineering director of electronic controls. "We are in introductory discussions with multiple automakers," Thoeny said during an interview at the show.

Delphi, TRW, and other suppliers are developing collision-avoidance systems that will allow automakers to add safety features as the technology matures.

Intelligent cruise control and lane-departure warning systems would come first. When automakers are confident that the systems work, they would add features such as automatic emergency braking.

"It's going to be step-by-step," said Peter Lake, TRW's executive vice president of sales. "Consumers and automakers have to be confident."

(Source: Automotive News)