How your car keeps you safe

We’ve come a long way since the early 1900s when the seatbelt made its debut as one of the major breakthroughs in vehicle safety. Here’s a quick drive down memory lane for some insight into the evolution of car safety and how manufacturers are taking it to the next level.


The initial 2-point system (1885) that went over your midsection, gave rise to the modern 3-point setup introduced by Nils Bohlin for Volvo in 1959 that stretched across your upper torso. For cars designed to hit the higher digits on the speedometer, a five point harness is in place.


The large auto-inflating nylon balloon can effectively cushion a brutal collision. Designed in the 1950s, it didn’t really find any traction in the industry until the 1980s with Mercedes Benz leading the way. It was still something of an add-on, an elite safety measure that only made it to the smaller vehicles sometime during the 1990s in developed markets. Initially deployed only for the driver and front passenger, the multiple airbag systems in cars like the Ford Ecosport, Figo and Mahindra XUV500 W8, create a cocoon, effectively amplifying the protection of all of the car’s passengers.


Your first line of defence. The handbrake of the early 1900s would not work today as it was designed to apply stopping power only to the rear wheels. With ABS technology, originally designed for aeroplanes, a driver has far more control over the vehicle when stopping as effective pressure is applied to all 4 wheels. On surfaces that are slippery, ABS can prove to be a major asset. EBD coupled with ABS, is designed to further improve a vehicle’s stopping power. By applying variation of pressure to the car’s brakes, each wheel is taken into consideration as well as the surface it’s on. This provides better control when the brakes of the car are applied with force for a sudden halt as the vehicle itself can remain stabilised without the driver losing control.

Safety glass

Aka shatter-resistant glass is what today’s windshield is all about. While it may not be able to deflect a bullet, it’s designed to prevent shards of thick glass from entering the cabin and causing more damage to passengers in an accident. The glass cracks on impact, but the double lamination and plastic layer in between prevent it from breaking like regular glass, holding it in place. In the 1930s Ford, in a process of testing and refining, made the use of safety glass a standard in all their vehicles produced. Now, all vehicle manufacturers use it.

Crumple zones

This literally means the area of a vehicle specifically designed to absorb the kinetic energy created during a collision by crumpling on impact. It was first incorporated into the Mercedes-Benz 220 in 1959. This section uses “controlled deformation” to reduce the force caused in vehicular accidents. You’ll find these positioned at the front and rear sections of most vehicles.

Anti-submarine seats

This is a forward-facing, metal ramp positioned under the seats, featuring an upward incline and is designed to prevent those strapped in from slipping out from under the seatbelt during a collision.


The Future of Vehicle Safety

We are on the cusp of the self-driving car becoming the vehicle our children will use. But trusting a microchip to control the speed and accuracy of a vehicle is one thing; ensuring the protection of the passengers and those outside the vehicle, is something else entirely.

Some of today’s high-tech vehicles come with anti-collision systems that use sophisticated sensors around the vehicle to detect proximity to surroundings. They can then alter the drive to compensate for safe transit. For example, at high speeds, when the car starts getting closer to the vehicle in front, the system auto-engages the brakes to slow down. This kind of intuitive technology makes driving so much more comfortable and safe.

In India, starting October 2017, BNVSAP or The Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program (BNVSAP) intends to start a rigorous programme to determine car safety for Indian vehicles. Star ratings will be provided based on a vehicles safety features and their performance. The New Car Assessment Program for India (NCAP) aims to prevent road accidents by ensuring Indian manufacturers adhere to strict safety regulations that will become the norm in new vehicles.

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