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History of safety systems

    1. History of safety systems

For really understand how work the vehicle safety devices and why they are so necessary in our days it is necessary to look at the past. At the beginning all the vehicles could be considering lethal weapons in case of crash for the passengers and pedestrians because of the several injuries that even a low speed could happen. Most of them were made in garages and the people made their self with a personal design and engine.


However, some designs were more popular and replied than others. In that time there were a lot of experimental steam, electrical and gasoline cars. But finally, the gasoline cars were the most popular.


  1. The first vehicle with a thermo engine was driving for 3, 9 km in Paris. But, in a second demonstration this was crashed into a wall. The automobile and safety history had started.


  1. In January 1886 Karl Benz patented a gasoline car. Had a single cylinder engine with 0.8 horsepower and a top speed of 16 km/h.
Figure 5. Photography by Emslichter (Pixabay.com)

Figure 5. Photography by Emslichter (Pixabay.com)

  1. . Mary Ward, an amateur scientist, was killed when she fell under the wheels of an experimental steam car being this the first known fatality with a motor vehicle.  
  • The introduction of automobiles with closed structure, with lateral doors and roof, was considering one of the first improves in the vehicles design and safety.


  1.  Henry Ford started to produce automobiles in assembly line manufacturing (Model Ford T). The production reached high rates in a few time, prices fell and the automobile became popular. But with it came the firsts accidents.


Figure 6. Recompilation accidents images Ford T (Source: Noticiascoches.com)

Figure 6. Recompilation accidents images Ford T (Source: Noticiascoches.com)

This automobiles were made with a sheets of metal nailed in a wood structure and lacked of blinkers and wipers. Most of the vehicle's components were at the same time weapons for the drivers and pedestrians:


  • The wiper's glass was one of the most dangerous components, because of the easy way to break and hurt even in the lower accidents.


  • The Cockpits were hard and resistant, but for the passenger's car involves in an accident that was like to hit the wall.


  • The car steering wheel and the steering column were no flexible and in case of accident could impale the driver.


  • The external structure was in excessive ornamentation and this car design dominance over good engineering or passenger's and pedestrian's protection.


  • The knobs, handles, levers and projections were also causes of injury.


  • Closed structure prevented people to leave farewells of automobile in case of collision. However, in that case stay inside still means suffer some kind of personal damage. These structures were not designed for absorbing energy. The passengers were who absorbed this energy.


  • Didn't exist any type of restrain in case of crash.



 Figure 7. Cockpit and car components (source: Gataingeniera)

Figure 7. Cockpit and car components (source: Gataingeniera)

The accidents and fatalities increased in the same measure that the number of cars on the road and the increased of velocity from 6 km/h to 32 km/h.



  1. The transport industry had several changes and improvements during the First World War. Many components still working in our days, were designed and patented during this period. For example dampers and springs.


  1. Was incorporating the first world Traffic light in Detroit, and was the beginning of safety laws for automobile vehicle and traffic regulation.


  1. Henry Ford introduced to his car's models safety glasses (a glass chemically modified with additional safety features that make it less likely to break, or less likely to pose a threat when broken).


  • More companies started to be worried about safety in automobiles. One of the most important was Volvo: "Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain, safety", Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larson (Volvo's founders).


  • Furthermore, was the beginning of the safety staff invents, how for example a security net extended ahead of the car for pedestrian's protection (see Figure 8).
Figure 8 Pedestrian's net protection (source: Re NatGeo videos- Cars: crash science ddit pics).

Figure 8 Pedestrian's net protection (source: Re NatGeo videos- Cars: crash science ddit pics).

  1. Volvo and Saab started to produce cars with safety passengers’ compartment or cabinet composed of steel beams for prevent the injuries in case of overturned. In a few time all companies started to introduce a similar structure in their vehicles (see Figure 9).



Figure 9 Beginning of safety passengers’ compartment. (Source: Gataingeniera)

Figure 9 Beginning of safety passengers’ compartment. (Source: Gataingeniera)

  • During the Second World War the automobile commercial manufacturing was stop and all the focuses were in specifically vehicles for the war. In opposite, was too the start of a new generation automobiles.


  1. Volvo and Saab pioneered the installation of padded dashboards.


  1. Was registered the first airbag patents.


  • Linderer's airbag was based on a compressed air system, either released by bumper contact or by the driver. But later research found that it was not efficient.


  1.  Were introduced the Anti-fog diffusers on the windshield.


  1. Were introduced the Wipers.


  1. For safety belts in front seats were introduced 2 anchorages.


  1. Volvo patented the 3 anchorage point’s belt and introduced it in all of their vehicles. The 2 points belts were really designed from the twenties but nobody used it because they thought this increase the injuries in the bodies passengers and the automakers didn't want to introduce in their automobiles.


  • This new system was anchored to the body and holding the waist, hips, shoulder and chest.



Figure 10 Firsts seat belt experiments (source: NatGeo videos- Cars: crash science).

Figure 10 Firsts seat belt experiments (source: NatGeo videos- Cars: crash science).

  1.  In United States, Europe, and Japan, started safety programs and research activities in biomechanics for understand what happened to the humans body in case of accident and how mitigate the injuries in case of one. Some of this programs were:


  • Experimental Safety Vehicles (ESV).


  • Stapp Car Crash (Colonel John Stapp studies).


  • International Research Council on the Biomechanics of Impact (IRCOBI).


  • Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).


  • Others vehicle manufacturers and insurance companies gave support work in these fields.


Other research programs involved human volunteers, animals, and cadavers. This became standard in these research areas and contributed in a high level to the advancement of safety.


  1. In the United States Automotive industry legislation suffered a strong pressure by medical and technical scientists, legislators, automotive engineers and consumer advocates after the increasing number of consumer information reports with respect to the performance of vehicles in the field and in accident simulation tests, such as:


  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).


  • The Highway Loss Data Institute.


  • The worldwide New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).


An American consumer advocates, Ralph Naider, published the book "Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile". In this book Naider accused the car manufacturers of resistance to the introduction of safety features, like seat belts, and their general reluctance to spend money on improving safety. It was a pioneering work, and suggests that the automotive industry should be forced by government to pay greater attention to safety.



  1.  Were introduced the Front and rear deformable zones (see Figure 11).


  1.  Were introduced the Rear seat belt (see Figure 11).


  1.  Were introduced the Front headrests and changed the traditional position of the ignition key because caused severe knee injuries, even in minor accidents (see Figure 11).



Figure 11 Introduction of improvements (Source: aroundvolvocars.es).

Figure 11 Introduction of improvements (Source: aroundvolvocars.es).

  1.   Ford and General Motors began offering cars equipped with airbag. The automaker discontinued the option citing lack of consumer interest and the suspected that airbag was the cause of several fatalities. Ford and GM then spent years lobbying against air-bag requirements, claiming that the devices were unfeasible and inappropriate.


  1.  Were introduced the Electrical heated seats, patented by Saab.


  1.  Were introduced the Side impact protection. Saab was the first car manufacturer to introduce reinforcement members in the doors, in order to provide side impact protection.


  1. Mercedes-Benz introduced the airbag in Germany as an option on its high-end S-Class . In the Mercedes system, the sensors would automatically pre-tension the seat belts to reduce occupant's motion on impact (now a common feature), and then deploy the airbag on impact.


  1. Chrysler was the first U.S. Company to install standard driver's side air bags and Saab developed the active head restraint. It automatically takes up the correct position in a rear-end impact and controls the movement of the head and vertebrae.


  • The number of whiplash injuries would decrease dramatically if all cars had head restraints that were shaped and correctly positioned.


  1. The Toyota Avensis became the first vehicle sold in Europe equipped with a driver's knee airbag and the first to equipped nine airbags in their models.


  1. In Russia, airbags were not standard equipment on all cars.


  1.  Side impact airbags became commonplace on even low- to mid-range vehicles, such as the smaller-engine versions and curtain airbags were also becoming regular features on mass market cars.


  1.  Toyota iQ launched featuring the first production rear curtain shield airbag to protect the rear occupants' heads in the event of a rear end impact and added a seat cushion airbag in the passenger seat.


  1. Toyota developed the first production rear-seat centre airbag or seatbelt airbag designed to reduce the severity of secondary injuries to rear passengers.


  1. The Volvo V40 included the first pedestrian airbag, the V40 ranked highest (88%) in the EuroNCAP's pedestrian tests.


  1.  Google revealed a new prototype of its driverless car, which had no steering wheel, gas pedal, or brakes, being 100% autonomous.



... To be continuous



  • National Geographic. NatGeo- Cars: The crash science (natgeotv.com) 


  •  Real life safety. Global Communications Mercedes-Benz Car 


  • Volvo Car Safety (volvocars.com) 


  • Wolkswagen Technology: Passive safety (volkswagen.co.uk) 


  • SEAT-Tecnología para disfrutar: Seguridad (seat.es) 


  •  Ford- Heritage (corporate.ford.com). 


  • Eliminating Fatalities in Automobiles around the World (dupont.com).


  • La Seguridad y La Ecología en el Automóvil (http://museoseat.com) 


  • Understanding Car Crashes: It’s Basic Physics! Insurance Institute for Highway Safety


  • Popular Science-Cars (popsci.com) 


  • ATZ extra magazine (atzonline.com)


  • Traffic Technology INTERNATIONAL (traffictechnologytoday.com)


  • SUBARU ALL-AROUND SAFETY (subaru-global.com). 


  • Hyundai Vehicle Safety Features. Preventing Accidents (hyundaiusa.com) 
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