As an engineer, don't you want to see some symmetry in regulations in Europe, Japan and the United States so you don't have to engineer the same safety system multiple times?
Absolutely. If you look at it that way, homologation or harmonization of global standards would make it easier to design a vehicle. But, at the same time, you have to look at the traffic environment in each country and tailor the vehicle's safety system to the country's traffic environment.
There are cameras and radar devices in bumpers and grilles and numerous sensors in and on the wheels. Just about any crash will damage something electronic. How much electronic safety equipment is too much?
Controller Area Networks (computers that share information between systems) will reduce complexity. Electronics are becoming smaller and don't have to be in a particular area. With volume come price and cost advantages that can be passed on to consumers. The integration of electronics into safety systems can help reduce crashes, and then you reduce the cost of ownership.
What safety technologies will Nissan bring to the market first?
We were first in 2004 with lane departure warning. We are still the only ones there. A natural progression from that is self-correction. With these new advanced safety technologies, you have to take careful steps to make sure consumers will accept it.
What's an example of a safety technology that consumers didn't accept?
In the 1970s, the government required seat belt interlocks. People didn't want to use it. The government finally rescinded it. But look how long it took for seat belt usage to go up. When you have these new types of technologies, there's a consumer acceptance and an education process.
Will the pedestrian safety initiatives that have been enacted in Europe and Japan come to the United States? If so, how would that change the way vehicles are engineered?
The Federal Highway Administration is looking at pedestrian safety standards. I believe it is one of the top three items on their list.
Looking at pedestrian safety is an important factor in vehicle design. We look at how the pedestrian interacts with the outside mirrors, the front end of the vehicle and the hood. We make sure there is sufficient space to absorb energy. We have a pop-up hood in the Japan market that enhances pedestrian protection. But is that applicable to the U.S. market?
Traffic conditions in the U.S., Europe and Japan are very different. In Japan, for instance, the roads are narrower and you have more pedestrians. There are no sidewalks in many rural areas. If you look at pedestrian deaths in the U.S., a lot of the fatalities (occur) at higher speeds.
What aspects of pedestrian protection would work best for the U.S.?
That takes research because the driving environments are different. You don't simply want to put a feature into our market without knowing if it is going to be effective.
Certainly we look at some of the traffic-pedestrian interfaces. They are happening at 25 to 30 miles per hour, typical of what you would see in a residential neighborhood. In Japan and Europe, those speeds are much lower. What may be effective in Japan and Europe may not be as effective here as designed and would have to be modified
Will vehicles be designed with their engines sitting lower in the engine bay so there is more energy absorbing space between the engine and hood?
I think you are going to see this as vehicles progress.
You may e-mail Richard Truett at [email protected]