Bud­get cars miss lat­est in safety

NT News - Motoring - - NEWS - By NEIL McDON­ALD

BUD­GET buy­ers are miss­ing out on the lat­est life­sav­ing safety fea­tures.

Ac­tive safety fea­tures such as elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol (ESC) are by­pass­ing the most-needed seg­ment in the car mar­ket — bud­get cars, ac­cord­ing to Sin­ga­pore­based en­gi­neer­ing ex­ec­u­tive Robert Tan.

With the global ex­plo­sion of new bud­get cars from mar­kets such as In­dia and China, th­ese sys­tems are crit­i­cal to help save lives, par­tic­u­larly among younger buy­ers looking for cheap cars, he said.

‘‘Gov­ern­ments need to be more pro-ac­tive to add th­ese po­ten­tially life-sav­ing de­vices into ul­tra-low and low­cost cars,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not hap­pen­ing fast enough on low-cost cars, those un­der $15,000.’’

Tan said cost pro­hib­ited the full suite of safety fea­tures mi­grat­ing from high-end lux­ury cars to mid to low-end ve­hi­cles.

Such sys­tems are ac­cepted in high-end lux­ury cars from Mercedes-Benz but re­main out of reach on cars such as the Tata Nano, he said.

Tan is the en­gi­neer­ing di­rec­tor of au­to­mo­tive elec­tron­ics com­pany In­fi­neon Tech­nolo­gies, which builds safety sys­tems for cars.

Un­like pas­sive safety sys­tems such as airbags, which only come into use dur­ing an ac­ci­dent, Tan said ac­tive safety sys­tems were just as im­por­tant.

‘‘They help driv­ers avoid an ac­ci­dent in the first place,’’ he said.

He ar­gued that seat­belt re­minder lights and ac­tive brake lights were rel­a­tively cheap to in­stall on low-cost cars, yet very few had them.

Tan also wanted in­tel­li­gent speed lim­iters, drowsi­ness de­tec­tion de­vices and brake-as­sist sys­tems in bud­get cars.

‘‘They are proven to work in high-end cars but are largely un­avail­able on low-cost cars,’’ he said.

Th­ese sys­tems could be piggy-backed on to ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies that were al­ready in some cars, he said.

All th­ese things could cre­ate an ‘‘elec­tronic safety co­coon’’ for oc­cu­pants.

Euro­pean fig­ures al­ready show that elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tems have helped re­duce fa­tal ac­ci­dents more than 30 per cent.

Aus­tralia will man­date ESC on all cars and off-road­ers from Novem­ber next year and all ve­hi­cles from Novem­ber 2013.

Tan, who was in Mel­bourne this week to ad­dress a So­ci­ety of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neers Aus­tralia safety con­fer­ence, con­ceded that cost re­mained a big hur­dle to some of the newer safety sys­tems.

He also said leg­is­la­tion was needed to sup­port the in­tro­duc­tion of such safety sys­tems.

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