Hot Tech: Collision Preparedness
When a wreck is inevitable, some cars automatically prepare you for it
In an effort to better protect people in crashes and help them to avoid an accident in the first place, automakers have made huge advances in active and passive safety technologies over the past decade, from crumple zones and multiple types of airbags to electronic braking and stability control systems. But until recently, these safety features have either reduced injury once a collision has occurred (passive safety systems) or worked to eliminate the potential for disaster (active safety systems). Before now, that horrifying no-man’s land between the loss of control and the actual accident had not been addressed.
Acura, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz are doing something about that by being the first companies to offer collision preparation systems. This technology determines when a crash is unavoidable via radar systems that “see” ahead of the car to monitor distances and closing rates. Once the car recognizes that a crash is going to occur, it readies the braking system to scrub as much speed as possible once the driver jams on the pedal and removes slack in the seatbelt while properly positioning the occupants for impact. Yet, because machines ultimately cannot take into consideration factors outside of their programming code, two of the three collision preparation systems on the market simply prepare for an impending crash rather than take corrective action without driver input.
Acura’s setup is titled Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lexus refers to its technology as the Pre-Collision System (PCS), and Mercedes-Benz calls its system Pre-Safe. We’ve had a chance to experience first-hand the Acura and Lexus systems in simulations designed to trick them into performing, but we haven’t experienced a demonstration of the Mercedes Pre-Safe system. Mercedes has enhanced Pre-Safe with the debut of the redesigned 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Based on what we’ve seen, and felt, we’re impressed. In fact, we don’t mind at all that Acura’s CMBS even does a little braking without being asked.