Cooley On Cars
New safety tech could mean better crash survival ratesHigh-end cars are improving your chances of walking away from an accident.
[MUSIC] Hey folks, Cooley here, with another one of your emails about high tech cars and modern driving. This one comes in from Cheyenne, who says, the new Audi A8 has a technology that will raise the car before it gets hit. And the new Mercedes S class somehow reduces the sound if you get into an accident. What do you think of these technologies, Cheyenne asks. Well, it's an interesting point you bring here, because so much of the attention these days is on modern driver assist and, or coming autonomy. Those all largely focus on avoiding crashes. But not getting as much credit at the same time is the fact that we have some wonder innovations going on at surviving crashes. We could, you say, be in sort of a peak survival mode right now, that I think needs to be touted a little more. Let's start with the category of side impact protection. You mentioned the Audi A8 feature that uses side radar sensors. which are part of a general sensor package the car uses for a lot of reasons, but can use them to detect if there's about to be a T-bone collision. In the milliseconds before that, raised the Audi three inches. That means the oncoming car delivers more of its impact to that very strong horizontal body pan And side sills, and less of it to the much softer, to be honest, vertical panels, like the door you're sitting next to. [NOISE] And Mercedes' PRE-SAFE impulse side system, boy they come up with some wordy names for these, is also able to detect an impending t-bone collision. In this case, it inflates a bolster on the side of the seat, to kinda nudge you away from the door. So you'll be an inch or two further from the intrusion of the other car. It's a game of inches, but when it comes to severity of injury, I'll take it. [BLANK_AUDIO] Okay so these technologies really protect your thorax, your hip, your legs, what about your hearing? A small but critical area, it's also a great risk in a major accident A 2007 study found that 17% of people will suffer some permanent hearing loss due to the loud noise of an airbag going off in a crash. [SOUND] In 2003 the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine did a ground breaking survey into this. And found perhaps counterintuitively that it's best to have the windows up. When the airbags go off. Now yes, that contains all the noise and pressure wave in the car. But it does something interesting, it takes advantage of a biological reaction in your ears. That basically stiffens up all the little parts in your ears, and gets them better ready to deal with the loud noise and concussive sound wave. Now Mercedes takes advantage of this very phenomenon with a new technology that, right before a crash, emits a loud but harmless burst of pink noise. It's basically a wide spectrum of frequencies that cause your ears to tense up before the airbags go off, and of course the windows are going to be up at this time as part of its crash logic also. [SOUND] Now let's look at our final category of some of these amazing new survivability technologies. This one, it's in the area of spine protection. Now Volvo, of course, was kind of the people that brought seatbelts to the fore way back in the 50s. And they're proud to remind you of that, as you can see. But their newest system is called WHIPS. And what it does is engineer a seat and the supports within it as well as the headrest to support your head, your neck, and your back, and keep them all in about the same relationship during a rear end collision. Because when they're out of relationship during that collision that's when you get whiplash, when one part moves and the other part doesn't move the same way. They also have that seat design so it goes a little bit in a collapsing recline in a rear ender to absorb some of that pressure but do it elegantly when you get hit. Similar to that is their newest seat cushion and frame design that helps prevent spine injuries if you're car leaves the road and kind of comes in for a hard landing. Not unlike the way seats are designed in some helicopters in case they need to auto rotate and come down to earth the hard way. [SOUND] And, of course, a pretty good number of cars these days have seatbelts that snug up as an impact's about to happen based on either hard braking or some wild lateral acceleration. And also some cars that apply the brakes after a crash to prevent the second crash that often happens as cars scatter all over like billiard balls. But notice that a lot of these technologies have one thing in common They tend to show up on pricey cars. What have I been talking about here? Mercedes, and Volvo, and Audi. One of the downsides of many of these technologies is that they don't always cost-fit into a car that costs today's average of a little under 30,000. Keep those emails coming. I'm here to answer your questions about high tech cars and modern driving. It's cooley@the roadshow.com.