Gratitude For Things We Hope To Never Use

Gratitude For Things We Hope To Never Use

Here’s something all of us should do this month before heading away on holidays. Don’t worry, it’ll only take a second.

If you’re driving off on a road-trip this summer, you’re probably busy with the usual pre-departure stuff; things like checking tyre pressures, making sure you’ve packed everything, and setting reminders to drop the dog with Aunt Beryl.

But what you probably won’t think about is the long list of items that will help you get to your destination and back: the technologies that underpin vehicle safety.

Modern cars are festooned with active and passive safety measures. And rightly so.

These devices have become so enmeshed in new-car designs their familiarity have made them almost invisible.

Anti-lock braking (ABS), which helps us keep steering control during an emergency braking manoeuvre; Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which helps prevent a car going into a dangerous slide condition; supplemental restraint systems such as airbags; lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, back-up collision intervention…

The list of these modern-day wonders is long.

And then there are passive safety systems. Here are just three examples:

Passenger safety cell with crumple zones: This is the rigid occupant structure we sit inside. In front of it and behind it are crumple zones, the structures designed to absorb the enormous energy levels experienced in a collision so we don’t have to.

Safety steering column: Originally designed as a two-part shaft that connected the steering wheel to the car’s steering mechanism, its inter-meshing ends were linked by a coupling designed to instantly deform in an impact, helping prevent the steering column turning into a spear.

Wedge-pin door lock: A clever solution designed to keep the doors of a vehicle closed in the event of a crash. Its two safety catches prevent the doors from jamming or bursting open in an accident, helping preserve the integrity of the safety cell.

It’s sobering to think about the problems these clever inventions seek to solve.

But thankfully the global car industry has been working on them for generations.

Our industry’s been climbing this Safety Mountain for a long time now. You might not know it but those three passive safety systems date back to the 1950s (they were patented in 1951, 1954 and 1958, respectively). They were possibly in your grandparents’ car.

And they all share something special in common: they were invented by the same engineer, Béla Barényi.

Known in the automotive industry as ‘the father of passive safety,’ Barényi (1907-1997) was a leading figure in safety development at Mercedes-Benz AG. At the end of his busy career he’d amassed more than 2,000 patents. Thomas Edison, the father of the light bulb, had 1,093.

As much as car companies often become famed for certain achievements or brand characteristics, it’s ultimately the people involved who give rise to it all.

So, before we reverse down our driveways this summer, let’s all give a moment’s thought – and thanks – to the thousands of engineers inside carmakers and specialist firms like Bosch, Continental, and APV Corporation Pty Ltd who develop the safety systems everyone hopes to never use or know about.

Bernie Quinn – Engineering Director, Premcar Pty Ltd


About Premcar – Premcar Pty Ltd is a leading Australian vehicle engineering business that specialises in the automotive, defence and aerospace industries. For more than 25 years, global car-makers have made Premcar their go-to partner for the complete design, engineering and manufacture of niche-model new cars, full-scale new-vehicle development programs, and electric vehicle (EV) conversions and manufacturing. As the name behind more than 200,000 new cars and 55,000 new-vehicle engines, Premcar’s body of work is extensive and has delivered technical and sales success for major car brands from Europe, the USA, Japan, China and Australia. Visit


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