Sensors help keep occupants safe

Moran, Tim
November 2003
Automotive News;11/17/2003, Vol. 78 Issue 6067, p34p
Trade Publication
The introduction of airbags taught automakers that a driver or passenger's position and size play a critical role in making a lifesaving technology more dangerous. In order for airbags and other safety equipment to be used effectively, the vehicle must be able to use sensors to determine what the driver or passenger is doing. A combination of seat-based and vehicle interior sensors helps carmakers improve safety by allowing systems to automatically adjust. Introduction of side-curtain airbags and other complex safety technologies such as rollover protection, have combined with government regulations to drive the interior-sensing market. Sensors in the seat rails measure weight and balance. Electronic contact pads embedded in the seat, radio tags on child seats, ultrasound, infrared thermal imaging and computer chip-based video cameras are placed in various combinations to monitor the interior. Input from the sensors is used to develop a changing map of how an occupant is sitting. The sensors also detect when a heavy object, such as a bag of groceries, may be on the seat instead. Using the map and calculating distances and angles, the vehicle's controller may decide to arm the airbags, disarm them, or command them to deploy with diminished force. The same combinations of sensors can also be used to detect drowsy or distracted drivers by monitoring seat position and typical head movements.


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