A raft of new safety products will come on the market over the next five years, even as safety features become increasingly important to new-car buyers, Autoliv President and CEO Lars Westerberg said Monday.
He cited a recent J.D. Power survey that asked buyers to list the top 10 features they would like their new cars to have. Of the 10, four were safety related.
Speaking Monday at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden, Westerberg said he envisages several new safety products soon coming on the market.
Head airbags to protect occupants in a rollover are a major area of short-term growth, Westerberg said. Installations are expected to double by 2004.
Used in conjunction with seat-belt pretensioners, head airbags will help drive down vehicle fatalities, he predicted.
Late this year a French carmaker will introduce a seat-cushion plate activated by pyrotechnics to reduce submarining -- sliding under the seat belt and along the seat cushion, said Westerberg, who did not name the carmaker.
The use of airbags to protect the knees also is growing, he said.
Also, smart seat belts with adaptive load limiters are being developed to reduce the pressures applied in modest impacts, he said. The chests of older car occupants cannot take as much pressure as the chests of younger occupants, Westerberg said. But new restraint systems will be able to take car occupants' different physical makeup into account. Personal occupant profiling is expected to emerge from the use of more seat and dashboard sensors.
Night-vision systems, combined with road-departure and drowsiness warning features, are expected from 2005 or 2006, he said.
Westerberg said the high cost of developing new safety products might force suppliers to share components.
For example, "we may share our safety sensors with a supplier of comfort devices," said Westerberg. And "we have to share displays" on features such as night-vision instruments -- in part to reduce the visual load on drivers, he added.
Westerberg said Autoliv's acquisition of Visteon's restraint electronics business in April 2002 moved the Swedish safety specialist to full-system supplier status in the USA.
Westerberg also said that Autoliv must eventually become a full-system supplier in Japan, "but we are not there yet." Autoliv will fully integrate NSK's Asian seatbelt operations from April 2003.
Westerberg said Autoliv would continue to shed some of its sewing and stamping activities and move more into sensors and electronics.