With the news this week that Nissan in the US is making Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) standard on a projected one million vehicles sold in that region for the 2018 model year, including seven of the company's most popular models, Rogue/Rogue Sport, Altima, Murano, LEAF, Pathfinder, Maxima and Sentra, I was reminded of an old adage. Safety doesn’t sell cars. For I am old enough to remember a time when the safety of a vehicle was not a significant sales point; as young and enthusiastic drivers, my friends and I were much more interested in performance and styling. We eschewed such features as seat belts which, although compulsory fitment on all new cars registered in the UK from 1972, did not become mandatory to be worn until 1983, as really not necessary for us skilled drivers, who believed we would never have accidents. In fact we had quite few mishaps...
One reason that Nissan’s intention to beat the US government’s legislation of AEB - in 2016, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reached a voluntary agreement with 20 vehicle manufacturers to standardise automatic braking by 2022 - is so significant is that for once the carmakers are ahead in the safety game.
Seat belts were once viewed by US drivers and passengers as an admission of a car’s lack of safety - buyers were heard to say in showrooms in the 1960s and 1970s that if a car needed seat belts it must be dangerous; vehicles which promoted safety as a feature were considered at best a bit odd, and at worst downright scary and impinging on people’s freedom of choice. It took legislation to force carmakers to install belts and other safety systems across all their models but now we are seeing advanced driver assistance systems as a positive sales feature, and that is good news for the consumer - one third of all vehicle accidents in the US involve a rear-end collision according to an NHTSA study in 2013 - and it is good news for suppliers.
The complex and sophisticated systems that power AEB: radar, sensors and elevated computing power, will mean added sales of innovative products from suppliers. For Bosch and Continental, Nissan’s braking systems suppliers this means more business and for other carmakers and suppliers it means more technology becoming available on an ‘open source’ basis. As AEB is concerned with preserving life and limb, its technology must not remain exclusive to any one OEM or supplier. And hopefully we shall see its adoption in all vehicle ranges at a pace much faster than that of seat belts, which drivers were so suspicious of once.
Simon Duval Smith
Simon Duval Smith
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