Nissan calls on its suppliers to help with protection advancements.
Nissan’s new vehicles and redesigned models create the need for the most up-to-date safety technologies. That’s the reason Nissan went to several different suppliers to help develop the technology.
What resulted is a family of vehicles loaded with safety technology ahead of its time.
One of the most important vehicles, safety- wise, in the Nissan fleet is the redesigned Quest. One of the big selling points in such a vehicle will be the safety since largely these vehicles are used for transporting entire families or mothers and children.
“Our goal with Quest was to exceed all the basic requirements of a minivan — for space, functionality and of course safety. In the minivan category, safety is very important so we wanted to make sure that Quest would be a leader,” says Robert Yakushi, senior manager, automotive safety engineering for Nissan when asked about the importance of safety features on Nissan’s minivan.
2004 Nissan Quest Safety Features
Advanced Air Bag System
Side Curtain Air Bags
LATCH Child Safety Seat
Break Away Engine and Drive Shaft
Slide Away Brake Pedal
Vehicle Dynamics System (VDS)
Tire Pressure Monitoring
Electronic Brake Force Distribution
Keeping those factors in mind, the Quest has a zone body structure with front and rear and occupant crushable zones. This design is meant to dissipate crash energy from the passenger area by allowing the front and rear of the vehicle to crumple. To do this the Quest is made with reinforced side roof rails, roof pillars, as well as side door beams to enhance body stiffness and provide protection from side impacts.
The minivan also features a dual-stage airbag from CalsonicKansei which uses an inflator capable of varying deployment pressures based on severity of the crash and the presence or absence of a seat belt. The seat belt sensors that work in conjunction with the dual-stage airbag are supplied by Takata.
CalsonicKansei’s occupant detection system uses a bladder to analyze the “weight signature” and compensates accordingly. If the system senses a child seat, distinguishable by the flat pattern, it will disable the air bag on the passenger side. Nissan, while hoping a child would never be placed in the front seat, recognizes that it does happen in real life. This system compensates for that scenario by disabling the airbag if a weight of fewer than 80 pounds is detected. The weight signatures of men and women also differ, which again will vary the pressure of the deployment.
The Quest also features third-row side curtain airbags. Nissan sees the side curtain as an important safety feature especially in the event of a side impact. The supplier of the side curtain, Autoliv, has research that points out side impact collisions account for a quarter of all injuries to car occupants and for more than one third of the serious and fatal injuries. In the U.S., 10,000 people die in side impact crashes each year and more than half of those fatalities are caused by head injuries. With the system, the occupant’s heads will be better protected with the side curtains.
Nissan equips the Quest’s front doors with head/thorax airbags to further immobilize and protect occupants in crash situations.
The hot-selling Altima features standard dual stage airbags in front like the Quest. An available Altima option package — the “ABS and Airbag” — features anti-lock brakes as well as side curtain and seat mounted head/thorax bags. The idea behind the supplemental bags being installed in the seats rather than the doors is that if the seat is moved back or forth to facilitate different sized occupants it will still deploy in the proper spot to restrain the passenger. Side impact thorax bags only deploy on the side where the impact occurs. In step with other Nissan vehicles, the Altima features the crash energy diffusing Zone Body construction.
Cars on the front-engine mid-ship platform (350Z, Inifniti G35 and FX45) from Nissan feature breakaway engine mounts and driveshafts again designed to dissipate crash energy from occupants. They also feature a brake pedal that moves towards the floor of the vehicle when a crash is detected to avoid possibility of leg injury to the driver.
“NHTSA has mandated a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and Nissan is ensuring this technology is implemented on all of its vehicles prior to the regulation date. Presently, the all-new Quest, Murano and Infiniti FX45 are equipped with this technology, as will the Nissan Titan when it becomes available,“ Yakushi says.
Infiniti is often the first place new safety technologies surface for Nissan thanks to higher price points making the enhanced safety features more feasible from a cost standpoint. The FX45 is latent with such features and has a few that will likely trickle down to other models. One such feature is a brake pre-viewing system. This system uses the sensing lasers from the Intelligent Cruise Control, supplied by Omron, to detect rapid closing distances to the vehicle (obstacle) in front and then pre-pressurizes the brakes so they are ready for immediate actuation.
The FX45 also is fitted with LED brake light technology provided by Ichikoh Industries and Koito Manufacturing. LED brake lights illuminate up to 100 times faster than conventional bulbs announcing slow downs more rapidly. Available on the Q45 is a RearView monitor supplied by Clarion. This monitor provides live full-color video through the Vehicle Information System whenever reverse is engaged.
Beyond actual products in use comes the importance of crash testing. Yakushi had the following to say about the state of rollover testing: “The auto industry and NHTSA have not yet found a more consistent crash test like the frontal NCAP test conducted by NHTSA. Nissan along with our partners in the industry, has been working with NHTSA to develop a repeatable rollover evaluation metric. Nissan designs its chassis and suspension, steering and brakes to enhance the driver’s ability in dangerous situations.”
Nissan has been very concerned with rollover research lately, so much so it did a study for the drivers who weren’t able to circumvent the chaos. While looking at how other companies tested rollovers, engineers realized the vehicles were tilted to begin with. Rather than recreating the entire motion of the crash and roll, the vehicles started on a lean were then released into a rollover situation.
The problem with that method was that occupants inside the vehicle were obviously leaning as well, which skewed the results since the occupants weren’t traveling the actual motion a car makes in a rollover situation. Nissan did its testing by putting the vehicle on a sled that moved horizontally. The vehicle sat upright and perpendicular to the sideward motion, when the sled reaches the of its track, the car is released into a curb which then causes the vehicle to roll.
Seat belts are the primary restraint systems vehicle and help mitigate injuries. The vast majority of fatalities in rollover crashes are from people that are unbelted. Supplemental curtain air bags with a rollover sensing system can help mitigate injuries and the possibility of ejection during a rollover,” says Yakushi.
Crash research and information compiled Nissan shows 72 percent of fatalities in rollover situations are due to passenger ejection. The more mitigating factors you can involve in preventing the problem the better. However, since unbelted passengers are the most common fatalities perhaps more people need to be informed about proper safety procedures when driving.
Forthcoming safety technologies not yet in by the company include infrared cameras; brake operated pre-crash tensioning seat belts and a side obstacle warning system. The obstacle warning system will be made to give an auditory alarm to the driver if detects an obstacle in the lane the car is about to move into. None of these technologies are in use yet and Nissan appears to still shopping for suppliers for them.
The company also has been testing a new system in Japan to monitor eye activity and detect drowsiness from the driver. When eye close to a certain degree or ocular activity slows auditory alarms sound to rouse the driver from their sleepy state. This system is available for testing yet in the U.S.