Better safe than sorry

Daily News Egypt
5 Min Read

Does it come with airbags?

This question is being asked more and more in local car showrooms. It’s only logical, especially considering the chaotic traffic and the high accident rates. For many car buyers now, safety comes first.

Airbags were first introduced unsuccessfully in the 1970s by Ford and General Motors as an alternative to seatbelts. They were reintroduced on the Mercedes S-Class in 1980 as Supplement Restraint Systems (SRS). It was considered a revolutionary move in the automotive industry.

Nowadays, there are front airbags, side-impact airbags and knee airbags for the driver as well as for passengers in the front and back seats.

These interior shock absorbers are managed by precise calculations to tailor airbag deployment according to the severity and direction of the crash. This way, not all airbags will blow open during a moderate collision, for example, and only the necessary ones will be deployed with the appropriate pressure. Airbags are also synchronized with the seatbelt pretensioners, which are intricate devices that tighten the belt to restrain the passenger from slipping or jerking forward in a crash. Pretensioners were also first used on the 1981 Mercedes S-Class.

In addition to these safety components, the progress of science and industrial methods enhanced the usage of new materials in manufacturing the body of the car (such as aluminum, alloys, composite materials and plastics). Technological developments in the car-making industry focused on building a “secure cell for passengers made from the most resistant materials, and to design the parts that are more likely to be hit first in a crash from deformable composites and plastics that absorb most of the shock.

Thus, it’s safe to ignore the cliché that claims that “cars made of plastic are not secure. Even when you can see and touch the plastic, what’s underneath is (generally) not plastic at all.

These components are part of the Active Security Systems and are utilized during a crash to protect passengers as much as possible.

Still, the safest scenario is to prevent an accident from happening in the first place, which explains why there are relatively fewer fatalities among drivers of Porsches, McLarens and Ferraris. These cars are fast enough to escape a precarious situation and their super-brakes – most often made of expensive materials such as carbon and ceramic – allow them to stop, or at least decelerate, in a very short time. So if you hear about a Ferrari that crashed at 150 km/h, that probably means it was originally going around 260 km/h.

The problem is that these “super cars are not very affordable – they are dream cars.

In actuality, accidents are more often caused by drivers’ errors, poor road conditions or bad weather, and so technologies were designed to limit these risks as well.

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) technology first appeared on the Mercedes S-Class in 1978, the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) – which enhances driver control on difficult road conditions such as wet roads – was introduced on the 1995 S-Class along with a number of other components in what’s called the Passive Safety Systems.

Almost all significant safety systems appeared on the Mercedes S-Class, and even today, when it seems that technology has already taken us very far, uncle Benz’s factories are still as innovative as ever, working on technologies that we used to only see in science fiction movies: infrared night vision, the smart cruise control radar, the PRE SAFE system, among others. Some 1,755 devices are designed to protect you in case of a crash while 4,629 others are working to make you think you’re one of the best drivers on the road.

There is no doubt about Mercedes’ supremacy when it comes to safety, and especially when it comes to the S-Class, whose admirers call “The future real life lab.

There’s truth in that: Every invention that is first introduced in the luxury vehicle eventually finds its way to the cheapest cars, making them safer on the road. ng them safer on the road.

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