Hyundai Africa boss: Five years of even better crash protection

  • Crash avoidance features will become standard
  • Advanced tech now available in mass-market cars
  • Intense competition to reach five-star ratings
MIKE SONG: Hyundai head for Africa and Middle East. Image: Hyundai / Quickpic
MIKE SONG: Hyundai head for Africa and Middle East. Image: Hyundai / Quickpic

Mike Song, head of Hyundai in Africa and the Middle East, explains his company’s stance on passenger safety and crash avoidance  and its future.

JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – The coming five years will bring a revolution in car safety as a wave of mass-market models that can predict and automatically respond to danger arrive in showrooms.

That’s the view of Mike Song, head of Hyundai in Africa and the Middle East, in a media release received today at Carman’s Corner HQ..

Today’s new cars, he admitted, already rated highly for “passive safety” occupant protection during a collision. However, he added: “We are now entering an era of ‘active safety’ as automakers race to offer the best possible collision avoidance technology in
forthcoming models.

INNOVATION OVER FIVE YEARS

“There has never seen so much competition to build the safest car. When you think of the basic crash protection equipment – seat belts, head restraints, crumple zones, crash bags – they arrived gradually over decades.

“The new level of innovation has come in the space of five or six years. New features are moving from the luxury segment into the mass-market cars incredibly fast.”

He recognised that collisions were often due to the slow reactions of one or more drivers – “even good, careful drivers”.

Automakers were now trying to overcome the human factor.

DRIVERLESS CARS AS BENCHMARKS

“At Hyundai,” Song said, “the new i30 in Europe and Azera in Korea combine a package of innovations – Hyundai Smart Sense – which includes auto braking, lane keeping, blind-spot and failing driver attention alerts, smart (following) cruise control and 360-degree camera coverage.”

Many of these, he explained, have come from the research and development of driverless vehicles.
“Because we can connect all these systems,” Song added, “and the processing power now available a car can see and respond to danger much faster than a human.”

READ MORE Hyundai features on Carman’s Corner

Such a level of crash avoidance/protection was, he explained, an important selling point and recognised by new-car assessment tests to give potential customers benchmarks for comparison with competing brands.

POOR SAFETY RATING ‘EMBARRASSING’

The United States introduced the first NCAP crash tests in the late 1970s, and most high-income countries had introduced similar assessments by the end of the 1990s. The past decade has seen programmes for a growing number of developing economies, with testing either in place or being planned for most major car markets.

“A new model achieving a five-star rating,” Song said, “is a source of pride and helps sales. A low rating would not only be embarrassing but also make many customers walk away.”

The benefits of giving consumers clear, independent safety data be seen by comparing EuroNCAP results from 1997, the year that EU countries introduced their version of the program, and the most recent results.

After test assessments several top-selling small cars achieved only two of a possible four stars. One popular model scored one star – but in 2016, every car tested achieved at least three stars despite more-stringent assessments.

‘WE WANT FIVE STARS’

Most, however, achieve four or five – the fifth introduced in 2009 and only won by cars with robust crash avoidance technology.

“One of the targets when Hyundai engineers develop a new model is a high nCAP score,” Song said. “We want five stars – a growing number of customers will make their decision on that. To keep those stars we must make sure every new model is better than its predecessor.

“In five years a car that doesn’t respond to danger won’t be considered completely safe. We need to bring the best available technology into the market now.”

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