GM is catching eyes this week with two new major safety enhancements: front center air bags and a new crash avoidance system.
GM will be the first auto manufacturer to introduce front center air bags in their vehicles. These air bags will come standard with the 2013 Buick Enclave, and will come with the GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse if they are equipped with power seats.
The front center air bag will deploy from the right side of the driver’s seat and inflate in between the two front row seats. The intent is to help protect the driver and front seat passenger in far side collisions and rollovers. Such an air bag is the first of its kind, and not currently required by federal regulation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 11 per cent of front occupant fatalities are caused by far-side impacts (data was collected for crashes between 2004 and 2009, involved 1999 model year vehicles or newer and was specific to driver and front passengers wearing seat belts).
GM is also introducing a crash avoidance system in the 2012 GMC Terrain. Using a single mounted camera in the windshield, this system is cheaper than radar detection. The computer looks for lane markings, shapes of vehicles, and car lights at night to detect when the driver may be tailgating or drifting.
When a driver of the 2012 Terrain starts crossing into another lane without signaling, follows too close behind another car, or is about to crash into a vehicle in front of it, both an audible and visual warning system kicks in. On the dashboard, the display has three lights: an icon that shows when a vehicle is in front, an icon that lights up if the driver is tailgating and flashes if a collision is imminent, and an icon that turns orange when the driver shifts lanes without signaling.
GM has plans to implement their air bag and crash avoidance system in future vehicles, but hasn’t specified which. The crash alert system will allow families a more affordable safety option than the typical radar-based systems. The 2013 vehicles with the front center air bag will debut in the fall of 2012.