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Jeff Glucker of Autoblog said:
You're an auto enthusiast. You know what all the acronyms on the buttons around your dash stand for. You understand that braking power can beat engine power 99% of the time. That feeling you get from activating the anti-lock braking system? It's not "scary" and you know you should keep your foot down. The problem is that the average driver or new-car shopper is not an enthusiast. Lexus knows this and it has created an event to help educate its salesmen around the country, who in turn can better explain the safety systems available on the cars in the showroom.

The Lexus Safety Experience is a half-day event that highlights the safety tech fitted to most Lexus vehicles (some 2010 models and all 2011s). In short, it decodes the aforementioned acronym alphabet soup and then demonstrates exactly what each one does. What does VSC stand for? What is TRAC and VDIM? Is EBD something I should get tested for?

Answers: Vehicle Stability Control. Traction Control Activity Area and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management. No, it means Electronic Brake-Force Distribution.

The terms might be foreign concepts to many of its customers, but Lexus is trying to change that. Not by telling its sales force what everything means – by showing them.

The day starts with an explanation of Lexus' commitment to safety and a discussion on ways the company is improving its already excellent craftsmanship. Lexus has teamed up with NASA and the Academy of Science to continually refine its safety technology and testing procedures. Its already at work on the production of the next generation of crash test dummy, which can simulate internal organ damage. Lexus will license this technology to other automakers and institutions. Currently, its vehicle testing is tops in the industry but Lexus is looking how to make it better.

Too much talking makes drivers and journalists antsy, but it was soon time to get behind the wheels of someone else's luxury automobile. Lexus broke up the driving portion of the event into three courses; Anti-lock braking, Stability/Traction and Smart-Stop.

First up, we jumped into the seat of a Lexus RX 350 which had its ABS system unplugged. The instructor told us to give it full boot and then go hard on the brakes at his command. We would then try and merge hard to the right to avoid a line of cones. To make it tougher, our braking area was littered with sand. As you would imagine, going hard on the brakes without ABS meant we became a fast-moving sled. There was no chance to make it to the right the crossover would've become a pile of bent metal were there cars in front of us. Next time around the course, we were given the same instructions but this time in an RX 350 with ABS working as it should. The result? Some braking wizardry underfoot and we could still control the car. In fact, no cones were harmed in getting our Lexus safely in the new lane. Anti-lock braking systems are your friend, but many people simply don't understand what they are feeling when they engage it. This is a great chance to understand that the pedal feel and strange noises are supposed to be happening and might just save your life.

Moving over to the Stability and Traction course, we hopped into a Lexus GX 460. The course features a quick wet zone, followed by a dry straight leading into a tight left-hand turn. First up, we ran through the course with traction and stability control turned off. On the wet pad, we floored it and listened to the familiar sound of a revving engine going nowhere fast. After that, we moved down the straight at speeds up to 27 miles per hour before trying to make the left-hand turn. The folks at Lexus thought this was a good place to put some more sand and our GX 460 thought it was a good idea to make for the far right cones. We didn't him them, but you could have fit a studio apartment in between our intended line and where we actually went. Next time around, we did the same thing but with traction and stability control enabled. As you can probably guess, it was a very different affair. The SUV came right around while flashing lights on the dash showed that things were happening underneath the vehicle.

Those "things" include the Traction Control system applying slight brake pressure to reduce the speed of wheels that are spinning while transferring torque to wheels that have grip. It also includes the Vehicle Stability Control system monitoring vehicle speed, cornering motion, yaw rate and steering angle. The VSC can then determine if the car is neutral, understeering or oversteering and correct if necessary. The speed of 27 miles per hour was determined to be the right speed for this specific corner – any less and we probably wouldn't get the systems to react, any more and we might be writing off an expensive luxury SUV. That speed was determined by Roberto Guerrero who was brought in to help setup the event, and is a man who knows what he's talking about.

After making text-message style lane changes with ABS and trying to tip over a Lexus GX 460, it was time to move to the last course – the Smart-Stop station. This exercise was the most interesting of the three and it provided a real eye opening moment for a lot of people. We all know that Toyota has been in the news for claims of unintended acceleration. This technology helps to quell any fears people may have of such an occurrence. Smart-Stop technology is essentially a brake override system; when engaged, it automatically reduces engine power when the brake and gas pedal are applied simultaneously. It can only engage when the throttle opening is greater than one-third, the vehicle speed is above 5 miles per hour and the brakes are applied firmly.

For this loop, we jumped into a Lexus ES 350 equipped with the new Smart-Stop feature. Our instructions were to floor it, wait for the instructor to tell us to brake, then keep the accelerator floored while mashing and holding the brakes. The result? The car stops. Quickly. To further demonstrate the effectiveness of this system, we do the same thing but in a Lexus IS 250 that doesn't have the Smart-Stop tech. We again came to a stop, just a bit further down the track. This is a system that is fitted to all 2011 Lexus vehicles and can provide some piece of mind to anyone worried about their throttle getting stuck open.

All three courses are great tools that provide a real-life sensation of how these safety systems work. Some of this stuff is common knowledge for the automotive enthusiast. We know that brake power will beat engine power 99 percent of the time. We understand that you can pop the car into neutral without harming your engine or transmission if your throttle were to get stuck. The idea of independently braking wheels while moving torque around is not groundbreaking to us. You know what, though? These concepts are foreign to a lot of the car-buying public.

During the Lexus Safety Experience we were teamed up with another driver, a mommy blogger to be precise. She was friendly, smart and asked some great questions – and she had no clue what was going on with the vehicles we were driving. It was actually very interesting to be a passenger for her driving stints because we sometimes forget that not everyone understands all this tech or even what we perceive to be relatively common automotive knowledge. This program opened her eyes and she walked away a better driver because of it.

Lexus is currently offering this program as means to educate its sales staff, who in turn can educate consumers. The problem is that the message might get lost in translation and nothing teaches like experience. This is a service that would work far better if they put consumers behind the wheel and had them experience what we did.

A better understanding of what keeps us safe can only make us safer, right?
Full article with photos here:
http://www.autoblog.com/2010/10/09/lexus-safety-experience-enthusiast-knowledge-made-common/
 

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There is no substitute.
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I'm going to rag on Toyota/Lexus again. But this is exactly what this article is describing...

http://jalopnik.com/5659744/a-wish-for-brakes-that-work

What's the easiest way to reduce accidents? Not get in one. It seems auto manufacturers are creating complex active safety systems that aid in preventing accidents rather than addressing the problem from the source. Simply put: our brakes suck.

It's obvious that American consumers are a safety conscious bunch or at least pretend to be when purchasing a durable good such as a car. But that's where the safety emphasis ends. It's been proven that driver safety program reduce the likelihood of an accident to the extent that most insurance companies will deduct insurance premiums after a driver has attended a driver safety program. However attendance rates of these classes are still not where they should be. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration suggests that inexperience is a major cause of teen accidents. This clearly indicates the focus of drivers' safety is off the track. As far as legislation and costs go, it'd be near impossible to force a nation to attend advanced drivers' education programs. If we as a nation can't change our thinking, then we can change our cars.

It may not be well known, however most cars' braking systems are not up to the task of everyday driving. And more importantly, there is little attention drawn to how important panic stopping distances are. The number of airbags (a passive safety device used after you get into an accident), fuel economy, amount of cup holders, and whiz bang gadgets seem to be the focus for most car buyers.

How many times does the average driver use his or her lane departure warning system? And how many times does that same person use their brakes? It's pretty easy to see why there are dimishing returns on safety with drivers' aids. After a certain point the drivers' aids will do more harm than good whether the driver is suffering from sensory overload or the driver is unable to properly operate the systems from the sheer number of them. You've seen technologically impaired individuals with a DVD player; imagine them in the cockpit of a Lexus LS 460. Hilarity ensues.

Take the 2010 Honda Fit for example; Car and Driver found the Fit needed 197 feet to stop from 70 mph. For reference, a Dodge Ram 1500 does that same feat in 186 feet and a Corvette ZR1 does it in 142 feet. According to the Federal Highway Administration the average two lane rural road is 12 to 15 feet wide. It may not sound like much but when a fellow driver decides to ignore a red light in front of you, you'll wish you had those extra 11 feet to spare when traveling 58.6 feet per second (40 mph). Some may argue that the Honda Fit is an economy car for twenty somethings and urbanites, a minority of drivers at best. But let's take a more in-depth look at this problem: the Toyota Camry and Corolla, Honda Civic and Accord, which consistently rank as top ten best-selling cars in America all have terrible 70-0 mph braking distances. The Accord, Camry, Corolla, and Civic all do it in 191, 182, 194, and 191 feet respectively. These cars fall into the compact and full-size classes and are easily seen piloted on any road and in your rear view mirror. Isn't that comforting? How many accidents could be prevented if the driver had a shorter braking distance of just a few feet?

Cost may be the main argument manufacturers will have against improving current braking systems. However there are numerous solutions to our predicament; better brake pad materials, better front to rear brake bias, wider tires with better compounds, lighter structures, and abs systems calibrated for better panic stopping distances. All of these methods have been proven successful on street cars. The research and development costs to manufacturers would be relatively low compared to creating brand new technologies and drivers' aids as these systems already exist and almost every car manufacturer has at least one car that exhibits excellent braking distances. And additional costs to the consumer should be minimal with a reduction of drivers' aids or additional safety technology. And besides, if the consumer is paying for these safety gadgets, the cost will be offset.

With each new model year, car manufacturers jam pack their cars with redundant and ineffective technologies. Before lane departure warnings, active cruise systems, and Volvo's automated panic braking system that did not work in a controlled environment (twice), drivers had to be aware of their surroundings and use their optic nerves. It is obvious that there are a large number of negligent drivers that need all the idiot-proof parachutes a car could offer. So why not make something that everyone can put to better use? It would be a greater good for drivers of all type. Even the best drivers in the world need to panic stop from time to time. If discriminating consumers can push manufacturers to create cars with better gas mileage, they can force manufacturers to create better braking cars, not just for car enthusiasts but for soccer moms and dads, for thrifty teenagers, for the elderly, and most importantly; for all.
 

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I remember simply using slightly more expensive brake pads in my last Corolla. Braking was hugely improved, even with its small rotors and weak single-piston calipers.

The new tech in cars helps tremendously in emergency maneuvers, but not when it comes to plain braking performance.

I do have to say that in most newer cars that I have driven, the ABS systems are far too aggressive. Simply lowering the sensitivity should work wonders with decreasing braking distances. My new Corolla is no exception. Hell. the ABS kicks in while braking over the expansion joints on bridges...
 
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