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Electronic Safety Systems Technician Is It In Your Future?

Venture to any forum that includes both shop owners and mechanics and you will quickly see the dividing line start to form. When the shop owner is also a mechanic in the shop they get an attitude of I know everything about a car and there is nothing I don't know. This is very common not only in the automotive repair industry but many other fields as well.

This thinking is about to have some serious 'monkey wrenches' thrown in it from the advances in technology as it applies to the onboard electronic safety systems being integrated into vehicles.

One of the very first safety systems was the seat belt which was championed hard by Ralph Nader. Since the mandated installation of the seat belt, many advances have taken place. These advances are auto adjusting mechanisms, shoulder belts and auto retracting mechanisms to reduce body injury in a crash. Now Ford has started to install 'Cold Air Bags' within the seat belt for even more safety.

The next safety system was AntiLock Brakes (ABS) which helped reduce accidents. Originally it had many flavors from 2 wheel antilock, rear wheel antilock, to 4 wheel antilock and on to 4 channel antilock that made it possible for traction control. Refinements of the system allowed for even greater braking and more vehicle control. Now this reliable system is being updated through technology to include 'Autonomous Emergency Braking' (AEB) or City Stop as some manufacturers are calling it.

autonomous electronic braking photo

This new AEB automatically applies the brakes if the integrated radar system picks up an obstacle immediately in front of the car which the driver has not reacted to. EuroNCAP, the safety organization that gives star ratings to most new cars has said it will not give a five star rating to new cars from 2014 unless they are fitted with Autonomous Emergency Braking(AEB).

A piece of safety equipment pioneered by Tucker in the 1940s was the headlight that moved with the steering wheel. This technology has been resurrected and the name changed to 'Adaptive Headlights'. The headlights still turn with the steering wheels and reduce accidents by 10%, which is a remarkably high figure for something relatively straightforward.

toyota facial recognition software photo

It is pretty common knowledge that a person that is angry or upset is not really a safe driver as compared to someone who is happy. Toyota has been working on a 'Mood Reading System' that uses facial recognition software, a camera, and 258 points of facial data to decide the mood of the driver and send out warnings.

Ford is developing a 'Cell Phone Block' system that blocks a cell phone signal when certain inputs indicate that the driver is overworked. Most of these systems are already in the vehicles such as vehicle control inputs, sensors, and road conditions. To this they are adding 'Biometric Information' such as a driver's pulse and breathing which be used to create a driver workload estimation.

This biometric information would be done via sensors in the steering wheel to get information about heart-rate. Adding a sensor in the seatbelt would enable measurement of breathing and a final sensor would compare ambient temperature in the cabin to the driver's temperature to check if the driver is getting hot and bothered.

BMW is developing a "Crash Avoidance Technology' that uses two webcams on constant watch to track things in three dimensions. The next generation of systems is expected to not only spot hazards moving perpendicular to the car, but can take automatic evasive action. A driver can easily miss a small child running across a pavement towards the road, but the stereo camera system is on perpetual watch for such an event.

GM is working on 'WiFi Direct' to save pedestrians. It uses Bluetooth, but not through the mobile network. It communicates with other Bluetooth-enabled devices within 200 meters within one second. The system could alert drivers that a pedestrian is about to cross the road in front of them, or a cyclist is in their blind spot.

Honda has developed a system that can detect whether a driver is likely to cause a traffic jam, and then take measures to prevent it from happening. It is based on the notion that adopting an 'on/off' driving style on a highway in which a driver accelerates and decelerates rather than maintaining a smooth, constant speed can trigger congestion. This was live tested in May 2012 in Italy and Indonesia.

Ford will offer 'Traffic Jam Assist' by 2017. Traffic Jam Assist is a system that allows a car to automatically drive itself in traffic jams. The interesting thing about Traffic Jam Assist is that most if the components needed for the system are already available on Ford models. 'Park Assist' operates the steering when reverse parking, 'Adaptive Cruise Control' modulates the speed to follow the car in front and 'City Stop' (AEB) automatically applies the brakes if it spots an obstacle immediately ahead. Combine with 'Lane Keeping Aid' which knows where the lane begins and ends, the new Traffic Jam Assist basically integrates all these systems into one that can actually drive the car at low speeds.

Other manufacturers are working on similar systems.

These are only a few of the new technology safety systems that are being developed for the cars of the near term production. These type changes are going to demand a new type of mechanic that understands these systems and how to repair them

Be on the lookout for new certification fields for this new arena. They could be designated Electronic Safety Systems Technician, Vehicle Safety Systems Technician or some derivative of these names. You heard it here first!

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