Computerized safety systems that can stop skids and halt rollovers could reduce traffic fatalities by 30 percent or more over the next five to 10 years, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News.
Active safety systems are becoming ever-present in new vehicles. Most automakers offer electronic suspension control, and over the next year or two, some will also install systems that apply the brakes if the car approaches traffic or other objects too fast. Other systems will beep or vibrate the driver's seat if the driver wanders out of his lane. And if a collision is deemed unavoidable, many will cinch down seat belts and even shut open sunroofs.
While consumers seem interested in the systems, most are not willing to give up control of their cars, the report says.
"The vast majority say in our surveys that they want the ability to turn them off," Mike Marshall senior research manager of automotive emerging technology at J.D. Power and Associates Inc, told the Dallas Morning News. "At least at this point, consumers want the ability to choose when they use these systems."
Since the mid-1990s, automakers have been working on active safety devices. Most were installed in luxury cars, yet now the systems are moving into the mainstream. GM has announced that its StabiliTrak suspension control system and OnStar telematics system will be standard equipment on almost all of its cars and trucks by 2010.
In surveys, consumers say they want safer vehicles. But many may be reluctant to pay more than $500 for the systems, said J.D. Power's Mr. Marshall.
"Having a distinguished car with style still sells cars first," said Dean Granger, general manager of Park Place Motorcars in Dallas, a Mercedes-Benz dealership. "But safety is probably second."