Monday, May 18, 2009

Can race car safety be applied to regular consumer cars?

When you watch modern racing then you certainly are impressed by modern safety standards. Formula 1 drivers crash with 200+ km/h into walls and climb out of the car themselves, rallye drivers survive really horrible crashes without any injuries, there has been barely any touring car accident lately with drivers being severely hurt. How is this possible despite the low weight of cars, the lack of airbags and crash deformation zones? There are a number of reasons. The cars are very stiff and have usually a safety cell, there's a roll cage, drivers were helmets and the "HANS" system that stabilizes the head and of course they all have six point safety belts attached very tightly. So if this is making racing all that safe why not apply some of this to our regular cars, the daily drivers. Well, some actually could be applied, but on the cost of convenience and partially also usability. It takes a bit of time for example to attach a six point safety belt and you can't really move in there if you would like to change the CD in your radio. Helmets also are not very convient in normal traffic and a roll cage makes getting into and out of the car quite a climbing exercise. On the other side though safey precautions have made our normal cars very heavy. All these airbags, crash deformation zones, etc. add today some 100 to 300 kg compared to a car two centuries before. So if we were to go for very light cars to bring fuel consumption down then maybe some of the race proven safety means could be applied to daily drivers. Let's see what innovative car manufacturers will be coming up with.

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