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Nissan Pre-Announces New Safety Features

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author photo by Colin Ryan October 2011

One of the great things about technology is the trickle-down effect. For instance, things like cordless power tools, smoke detectors and scratch-resistant glass all come from the NASA space program. The same principle applies in cars. Expensive marques like Mercedes-Benz or Volvo are usually the first to install high-tech equipment into their vehicles, and then mainstream companies manage to integrate similar features as they become cheaper and more readily available.

That process can happen at a faster rate if a manufacturer has an upscale badge to go with its bread-and-butter cars, like Nissan and Infiniti. The company's Around View system (which is standard on the Infiniti FX50 mid-size crossover, and now available in the Nissan Rogue compact crossover) uses sonar and four cameras - one on each side - to give the driver a virtual overhead perspective and an alert of nearby objects within a full 360 degrees.

Nissan now plans to put this feature into more of its cars, with an extra twist. The system can tell whether the car is in a parking space, and if the driver mistakenly presses the throttle pedal instead of the brake (it decides by how much pressure is applied), it will override and even engage the brakes if necessary.

The same camera and sonar equipment is also drafted into service for Nissan's Multi-Sensing System with Rear Camera, not a title that trips off the tongue, but describes its function pretty well. Actually, it has three functions. The first is a blind spot warning, which is fairly familiar territory these days and comes in the LE trim of the Nissan Quest minivan. Imagine driving on the highway then flicking a turn signal to change lanes. If there is a vehicle lurking in that tricky area which doesn't show up in the side mirrors, the system can detect it and emit an audible alert while simultaneously flashing a warning light set into the A-pillar.

By reading the painted white lines on the road, a lane departure warning system senses if the car is straying from its previous path without a turn signal being activated. Whenever that's the case, there's another buzzer and flashing light.

Function three is the detection of moving objects around the car. Again, it builds on technology drivers might encounter every day; when the car is put into reverse, the rear-view camera shows its images on the console's screen. But should a pedestrian, dog, cyclist or other vehicle come into the car's anticipated path (steering angle is also taken into account), then audible and visual driver alerts are activated.

The third aspect of this protective trinity - which the company calls its "Safety Shield" concept - is the Predictive Forward Collision Warning System. This is particularly clever. It uses radar to determine the speed and gap between the two vehicles in front. Should one of them brake suddenly, this feature not only sets off the buzzers and lights, it also tightens up the seat belts. Mercedes-Benz's Pre-Safe setup works in a similar way. It isn't too much of a stretch to imagine a Nissan system that could apply the anchors if the driver was not responding quickly enough, in a similar vein as Volvo's City Safety feature.

By all means run down to the Nissan dealer if there's something in the current range that appeals, but don't expect every one of these safety features to be available now. The company anticipates its acceleration suppression system will come onstream within two years. The Multi-Sensing System with Rear Camera is due in 2012, but may be not be part of the U.S.-spec fleet immediately, and there's no word yet on the forward collision warning function.

"The placement and some of the basic components for many of these technologies are in existing Nissan/Infiniti models," said Steve Yaeger, Nissan USA's technology communications manager, "but actual availability and pricing is to be determined." He added, "Nissan is committed to launching 90 new technologies over the next six years." So we can look forward to the roads being safer places. And getting used to more buzzes and lights.

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Nissan Pre-Announces New Safety Features - Autotrader