The 2014 SAAB 9-3 AERO and Pedestrian impact regulations
First off I’d like to say the reason for this article is all the negative comments that have been circulating around Facebook and other social media that the new SAAB 9-3 does not qualify for the 2013 requirements of safety.
This is partially true and partially not true. So lets first find out what the pedestrian impact regulations are and what the difference is? The Saab 9-3 qualifies for all other safety regulations except pedestrian impact.
There are two stages to the protection system, one deals with the reduction of the impact speed, the other deals with the collision itself by minimizing the damage caused by the impact to the pedestrian.
The rules were formed after more than 10 years of discussions on how to decrease the fatality rate within cities where speeds were relatively low but impact injuries severe.
Until not too long ago the automatic reduction of speed of impact system was technically almost impossible to implement and today it is still a very expensive system, so manufacturers are not yet forced to implement this into their cars even though many manufacturers of high-end cars have chosen to do so anyway. This basically includes some kind of distance measuring, most often doppler radar which is used in parking-sensors or automatic distance keeping cruise control to spot an object in close range and automatically engage the brakes of the car.
A normal human has a reaction time of about 2 seconds when being in good health and well rested. When driving 30-50 km/h in a city the distance covered in 2-4 seconds is great and the impact speed when pedestrians are hit is significant enough to often cause a fatality. The automatic speed reduction system would not save lives but as a component of the active collision protection it would according to many experts greatly reduce the risk of fatality.
The other function which is mandatory for manufacturers is as stated above the reduction of injury when impact has occurred. This is usually done with an ”active hood” making the hood of the car rise up to dampen the impact of the pedestrian and hopefully reduce the risk of the pedestrians head hitting the windshield which is the most common cause of death during these impacts. Most car manufacturers have solved this with an explosive charge shooting the hood upwards from the rear part to cushion the impact and to my knowledge this is the system that SAAB is also working on.
To build such a system is highly complex, this doesn’t just involve a simple explosive system but also a brand new computer system that monitors the surroundings of the car and is independently connected to the brake system of the car so that the driver can not override it. If the speed reduction system is also implemented then the system becomes even more complex. There are several companies that have developed the computer software to guide these systems and systems that are almost off-the-shelf are available, however they still need to be built in and tested.
So why doesn’t the 2014 9-3 have this system? Simply put, there has not been enough time to develop, test and build the system into the cars. A year of work is simply not enough and as we know Saab has a limited amount of manpower to work on the issues. But development is in progress, that I know for a fact!
There is a low-volume dispensation that SAAB has been allowed to use that states that a car manufacturer is allowed to produce and sell up to 1000 cars in the EU for a limited time that does not comply with the regulation that was implemented on January 1st 2013.
The Chinese safety organization is also looking at implementing similar regulations in China using the EU rules as a template for creating their own. The Chinese have been working a lot to increase safety of the vehicles on the roads in China and it would not surprise me if they adopt the same rules that have been implemented in the EU due to the extensive amount of research that has been going on since early 2002 in different EU countries.
The Chinese regulations will most likely be applicable within a year or two so I think we will see new 9-3’s coming out with the new pedestrian impact system probably with the launch of the facelift in 6 months or slightly there after.
Finally I’m gonna end this editorial with the 1000 cars restriction, to my knowledge NEVS plans to sell their first 200 cars to Swedish customers and 2-300 cars to China of the current model that was launched yesterday, this would probably account for the full production capability for the first 6 months. Once the facelift is launched it is a new yearmodel and another 1000 cars can be built and sold in Sweden if the protection system has not been implemented by then. Looking at Saabs salesfigures in Sweden historically I doubt that NEVS will be able to reach that kind of number. I’m no expert in sales numbers but when Saab was at its peak Saab sold about 5000 cars to private people on average in Sweden annually.