In the early 1990, Chrysler was the first automaker to install driver side air bags across the board. Do you have any similar plans for aggressive implementation with today's safety technologies?
The Chrysler Group continues to evaluate and implement safety technology that will protect the driver and passengers during a crash and that will help avoid crashes. For example, we recently announced that all Chrysler Group SUVs will have the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) as standard equipment by 2006. It's much different today, though, when there are more technologies and the information is better. Today, we can offer the customer a lot of safety through the coordination of the right technology—it isn't as much about having the full list of features as it is having the right technology for the design of the vehicle. We've done so much with energy management, such as the patented, octagonal frame-rail tips on the new Durango, which isn't as exciting but just as valuable in the holistic approach to vehicle safety.
What role did testing such as NHSTA's Fishhook rollover test play in this decision?
Chrysler Group had an implementation plan for ESP in place prior to the introduction of the Fishhook Maneuver—the announcement was simply sharing our plan with the public. Our SUVs performed well in that maneuver without ESP and that's very important to us. The ESP technology offers customers added assurance and it also enhances the driving experience.
How have Chrysler vehicles performed in recent NHSTA safety tests?
Eight Chrysler Group products have received the five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—the Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Durango, Chrysler 300C and Dodge Magnum, Chrysler and Dodge Minivans, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Dakota Club-Cab. Eight in a row is a good record. We test beyond these ratings, but it is very nice to have third-party recognition of the safety designed into our vehicles.
Can you say anything regarding how these ratings were achieved?
One of the key tools we utilizing is computer-aided engineering (CAE). With CAE, we are able to simulate hundreds of different crash scenarios prior to crash-testing a real vehicle. This advanced engineering helps us better understand crash energy and we are now able to choreograph how we want the parts react in a real crash situation.
What are the most promising safety technologies?
If used consistently and appropriately, current safety features such as seat belts, air bags, ESP, ABS, traction control, and so on—each contributes to a safer driving experience. Numerous advanced safety systems are currently under review throughout the industry, such as active steering, active driver assist, collision mitigation, accident avoidance, etc.
Can you comment about active versus passive safety systems?
Active safety systems consist of technology designed to avoid collisions or reduce collision severity prior to impact, such as ABS, ESP, Panic Brake Assist, and Tire Pressure Monitoring. Passive safety systems consist of technology designed to protect the occupant after an impact, such as seat belts, air bags and energy-absorbing steering columns. In the future, we expect that the greatest potential for additional safety gains will be in the active safety area.
What role do you think consumer awareness will play?
As technology matures it will be more readily accepted by consumers. As with any new technology, consumers need to understand and see the benefit before they will accept it. NHTSA and Dr. Runge have done an excellent job of talking publicly about the benefits of ESP, advanced air bags, etc. We need to continue to work together to show consumers how to best use this technology.
What is required to implement or accelerate the implementation of these systems?
New vehicle infrastructure, such as an electrical architecture capable of supporting these advanced safety systems. Another means is by using fully developed vehicle subsystems such as Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) and advanced ABS, which are integral to our ESP. The next level of technologies won't be easy to implement, but we are researching now.