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1999 New York Show: High Tech


by Ted Grozier

We Americans consider New York the financial capital of the world. So last week, when the carmakers gathered at the New York International Auto Show, it was no surprise that they trumpeted strong first-quarter sales. But the wide array of new products at the New York show also brought an array of tech wizardry rarely seen there. For the first time in a long time, the Jacob Javits Center hosted a myriad of exciting new technologies in safety, performance, and environmental responsibility.

TAURUS COVERS ALL SAFETY BASES.
On the safety front, Ford's 2000

trunk

trunk


If Janette Fennel of San Francisco were
really trapped in this trunk, she simply could pull
the Taurus’ safety release to escape.

Taurus stole the show. Its standard-equipment Advanced Restraint System assesses collision speed, seat belt use, and seating position to compute appropriate airbag responses during frontal impacts. If the passenger seat is not occupied, for example, the passenger airbag will not inflate. The new system includes seat belt pre-tensioners and force limiters — previously available only on high-end vehicles — and will debut on new and "freshened" vehicles throughout the Ford Motor Co. product range. Side airbags also will be made standard across the board. Power adjustable pedals — seen first on the 1999 Expedition and Navigator SUVs — make their passenger-car debut on the Y2K Taurus. With 3 inches of fore-aft travel, the pedals promote better airbag safety by allowing shorter drivers to sit farther from the steering wheel. Visibility also benefits by bringing a shorter driver's focal point closer to the position for which the mirrors, windshield frame, and instruments were designed. The new Taurus comes standard with an interior trunk release designed to eliminate the surprisingly high child death rate due to entrapment. A glow-in-the-dark pull tab inside the trunk releases the latch even if the doors are locked and the vehicle's battery is dead.

INFINITI GETS ACTIVE HEAD RESTRAINTS.
We've seen anti-whiplash devices on Volvos and Saabs, but at the New York show, Infiniti announced that it, too, would offer the technology as standard equipment on its 2000 I30 and Q45 sedans. In a rear-end collision, the headrests of the front seats are mechanically driven both forward and upward, resulting in 35 percent reductions of neck stretching and rotation. Infiniti's tests have shown an overall reduction in injury severity of about 65 percent with the new system.

ABS ACROSS THE BOARD — NOW WHAT?


Anti-lock brakes are standard on all but the most economical vehicles these days. At the auto show in New York, a number of manufacturers upped the stopping-power ante. Saab's new 9-3-derived Viggen sports car comes standard with grooved brake discs at all four corners, while Mercedes' CL coupe sports cross-drilled rotors up front. Both systems provide slightly better initial braking in wet conditions and can often lower brake temperatures. Don't look for these technologies on family sedans soon, though. A more promising braking improvement cropped up on Kia's KMS-4 concept car (a derivative of the long lost Lotus Elan, for those who recall). Called Brake Assist (it has been around for some time now on Mercedes-Benz production cars), the system automatically applies full braking force during panic stops. Research has shown that even the best drivers are often too late in applying full pressure on the pedal, and unlike ABS, this system can significantly reduce stopping distances.


 
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