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Renault Laguna (2004) -
Electronic Safety

Renault Laguna cutaway - click to enlarge

Cars nowadays are increasingly becoming computers on wheels. The driving experience is now littered with instances when some electronic system or other comes into play, whether to save your life or just to let you know that your driving sucks. There was only a time when a "safe" car was determined by its chassis engineering and structural integrity alone. A Volvo, for instance, used to appear in advertisements with a moving van on its roof. Now the stakes are higher and a myriad of abbreviations define how safe a car is on the road. Electronic driving aids and safety systems, sometimes collectively known as Active Safety, which were once in the domain of high-end luxury cars in the mid-90s are now trickling down to more and more high-volume family cars. Face it - safety sells.

French carmaker Renault is at the forefront of putting high-end safety tech in more affordable cars. Their latest Laguna range of compact family cars is one of the company's models that has benefitted from the technology revolution. Renault cars are not sold in the United States, but many of its features are already available in cars that are sold in America, though mostly in expensive cars.

As computer technology becomes cheaper, more of these systems will become available in even the most affordable cars, as in the case of airbags. Until then, let's take a look at some of the safety gizmos offered in the Renault Laguna sedan:

  • The Parking Aid system consists of sensors fitted discreetly on the rear bumper that sends an audible and visual warning to the driver if the car comes too close to a stationary or moving object while reversing. This helps the driver to park in tight spaces without the fear of hitting something. This system is common in models from Mercedes Benz, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus and Infiniti.
  • The Emergency Braking Assistance system, more commonly known as ABS or anti-lock braking, allows the driver to steer the car while applying the brakes. Ordinarily, flooring the brakes would lock the wheels and the car would just slide straight no matter where the driver is steering. The ABS system applies the brakes in pulses of calculated duration, so the wheels don't lock and the car can be steered around an obstacle. Most cars nowadays have ABS brakes.
  • The Anti-Slip Regulation system, or ASR, is a traction control system that prevents the driving wheels from spinning when the car is started, especially on slippery surfaces. This system is common in many average-priced cars from Volkswagen, GM, Chrysler and Ford, and in most luxury and high-end sports cars.
  • The Intelligent Navigation System, called Carminat by Renault, is similar to the OnStar system available in America. Drivers can use the system to call up an operator and ask for directions, all at the press of a button. Usually, such systems have a yearly subscription charge. The OnStar system is available as an option in many GM, Saab and Acura models. More expensive cars come with a complete satellite navigation with a graphical display showing actual road maps.
  • The Electronic Stability Program, or ESP, makes it easier to control the direction of the vehicle on bends, or if the driver is forced to swerve suddenly. On-board electronics can sense if a driver approaches a corner too quickly and applies different levels of braking to each wheel to keep the car stable. ESP is standard on many high-end cars and available as an option on lower-end models.
  • The Odysline system is also similar to the OnStar system available in America in that it calls up emergency services automatically without driver intervention, when the car is involved in a serious accident. Sensors detect if the car is on its roof or if it's involved in a collision.
  • The Cruise Control feature is commonplace now, and it keeps the car at a constant speed set by the driver on a highway, without having to keep the accelerator depressed. Even cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have it as options.
  • The Tire Pressure Monitor keeps the tire pressure in check, so that incorrect tire pressure does not lead to greater tire wear, or even a blowout.
  • Finally, Keyless Entry is another feature that has been passed down from expensive luxury cars of the early 90s to even the cheapest cars in today's market. A wireless remote control attached to the key is used to open all the car's doors automatically at the press of a button. They also usually consist of a panic button, to scare off a carjacker or something.

Let's just hope cars don't start driving by themselves, or driving enjoyment will become a thing of the past!

Modernracer.com 2003

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Renault Laguna

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