European scientists have developed a car protection system that thinks intelligently and protects its occupants before a side-impact.
The research is part of a project funded by the European Union called APROSYS (Advanced Protection Systems) aimed at cutting the rate of traffic fatalities.
The car-flinching system, or ''intelligent side-impact protection system,'' involves two technologies, said Dieter Willersinn of the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.
The system has stereo cameras and radar sensors that constantly scan the environment and a central computer that analyses the data, reports Live Science.
The cameras are integrated in the doors of the car and the radar sensors are placed in the car wings.
By the time the crash is only a second away, the cameras have long identified the car that will cause the accident. Following this, the radar measure how far the car is away.
With about 200 milliseconds left for the crash, the side-impact protection system gets activated. The impulse from the central computer releases a surge of electricity that heats a wire made of a shape memory alloy.
The heat bends the wire, which then releases a spring, which further slackens and pushes a steel bolt, which is integrated in the seat, towards the door. Simultaneously a stable metal body in the door is brought into position to support the steel bolt.
The bolt and the metal box stabilizes the car door and absorbs energy on collision, thereby dramatically reducing the risk of injury.
This system, which is part of the APROSYS — short for Advanced Protection Systems — program, has been publicly demonstrated for the first time in Valladolid, Spain. Hence, it should take a few years before it becomes generally available.
Field tests demonstrated that the system could reduce the depth to which the body of the car was smashed during a side impact by 9 centimeters, or about 3.5 inches, Willersinn said.
He also noted that the reduced intrusion would make other safety systems, especially air bags, more effective.
But the impact speed at which you can expect to emerge unharmed will still involve numerous factors, including the make of car you're in, he added.