Budget cars miss latest in safety
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.