What should be the future safety standards of cars in the region? How can car accidents be minimized by educating drivers? How can lives be saved and what role does the automotive industry have to play? Trying to seek these answers, the General Directorate of Specification and Standards under the Ministry of Commerce held a seminar recently in Muscat. This high-profile seminar was attended by representatives from the ministries, Royal Oman Police and executives from local car distributorships.
Abdul Karim Awwad, national sales manager of Audi Oman was one of the key note speakers at the event. Awwad made a detailed presentation about the latest safety technologies that are currently available in Audi models and how they help drivers, occupants and pedestrians safe on road. “It is estimated by experts that ninety per cent of traffic accidents caused by human error are avoidable, thanks to the availability of an array of active and passive safety features in motor cars,” said Awwad.
But it seems that despite the availability of safety and security features in modern cars, road and traffic studies in the Middle East are suggesting that the level of awareness in drivers is quite low. “In our studies have indicated that in general drivers of high performance or luxury cars general push the cars to extract high performance without realizing the pitfalls in an emergency situation,” added Mr. Awwad. The results of a study carried out by Audi Oman has also indicated that barely four per cent of punters shopping for an expensive car in the Middle East inquired about safety features in the car.
"This is an issue that precisely where we must work hard to change perceptions of drivers to make roads safer. Our market research study shows that the new younger generation customer is more focused on the performance or handling of a car than its safety features. And then there are customers who are interested in comfort or luxury features only,” says Awwad. Awwad suggests that continuous education – especially within the new buyers is vital as qualitative studies indicate that most youth aren’t mature or experienced enough to deal with the vehicle’s capabilities is one of the solutions to enhance levels of awareness amongst the target group.
Audi has been offering active and passive safety features in cars and the car maker’s safety engineers and researchers are continuously looking at innovative solutions for future cars. “Future cars will be more advanced as they will communicate with each other and factoring in driving conditions, future safety on roads becomes a critical issue for all manufacturers. “For instance, Audi is looking at advanced pedestrian safety requirements in a future scenario as legislation changes globally, now,” said Awwad.
During the presentation, Awwad highlighted both active and passive safety features in Audi cars. “’Stay in lane’ is a driver assist feature that prevents drivers from drifting out of a chosen lane. A tiny image recognition camera watches the lane markings on either side. If you veer too far right or left, the system knows you’re in danger and assists the driver to stay in lane with gentle steering impulses when driving at speeds of over 60km/h. The driver has the choice of two settings; Early steering intervention with continuous steering impulses to centre vehicle in lane; Late steering intervention, alerts driver that vehicle is possible crossing lanes and applies corrective steering prompt,” said Awwad.
Safe lane changing is another feature that offers a safe lane-changing solution even if there’s another vehicle in the car’s blind spot. At speeds over approximately 64km/h, it monitors the area to the rear and sides of the car and detects whether the lane is occupied by another vehicle. If it is, LEDs on the corresponding door mirror warn the driver.
The Audi Parking System Plus uses sensors discreetly located in the front and rear bumpers. When obstacles are detected drivers are alerted by acoustic signals and a graphic display in the cockpit. With Audi Parking System advanced a small camera in the boot lid has a wide angled lens that provides a 130° view to the rear, displayed on the Multi Media Interface screen. The image is overlaid with coloured graphics and shows the path the vehicle will take based on the position of the steering wheel. With blind spots minimised, the driver is able to park effortlessly in even the tightest of parking spots.
On the move, there’s also adaptive cruise control wherein a driver can choose to maintain safe distance between cars. It is programmable according to the driver’s needs and uses satellite navigation tracking technologies. Besides these there are several electronic safety systems on board like stability and traction control, antiskid brakes [ABS] and electronic brake distribution. Passive safety devices in latest Audis include smart seat belts, head restraints and safety air bags for driver and passenger.
Audi Oman has taken lead in the Sultanate when it comes to connecting with youth. “Our regular participation in events at local colleges, polytechnics and universities has helped raise awareness about safety, engineering and other related issues amongst youth and aspiring professionals. We had a great interaction with the student audience at the German University of Technology and Technical College and the College of Engineering presentations recently,” said Awwad.