Cars In The Future : Background
Historically vehicle safety has focused on crashworthiness and occupant protection, this has played an important role in reducing the yearly number of casualties on the roads. This field of passive, or secondary, safety has resulted in many developments designed to save lives in a crash - such as seatbelts, and airbags.
Consumer programs such as EuroNCAP have also encouraged vehicle manufacturers to develop vehicle structures to withstand crash tests at higher velocities than the legislation requires, and this has seen a rapid improvement in the performance of vehicle structures during crashes in the latter years of the 20th Century. These developments have contributed greatly to the drop in the casualty numbers in the UK.
There are areas of passive safety in which improvements can be made, such as safer vehicle fronts and vehicle-to-vehicle compatibility and work in these areas is still ongoing. However, progress in this field is expected to slow and any future work about passive safety is likely to be based around enhancing and developing existing technology rather than new design initiatives.
Along side these developments, there has been an increasing interest from consumers about their car's safety. This demand has been instrumental in encouraging vehicle manufacturers to research and develop more and more advanced safety systems, which protect road users. Much of this research has been focused on looking at the influence that the vehicle has leading up to the crash, and accident prevention is now high up on the agenda of vehicle manufacturers.
This consumer demand for technology on and aboard vehicles is set to continue into the future and much of this will fundamentally change the relationship between the driver and their car. Changes in vehicles will change the way we drive.