by Jim Kerr

The Nominees Are..

For the past twenty years, members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) have been getting together once a year with Canada’s automobile manufacturers to test vehicles and select the “Car and Truck of the Year” awards. A relatively recent addition to this event has been the selection of the year’s best automotive related technology.

Past winners of the Best New Technology award come from a wide variety of technologies and different manufacturers. Last year’s winner was Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist used in the Honda Insight hybrid electric car. In 2000, the winner was General Motors with Cadillac’s Night Vision system. Land Rover took the honours in 1999 with their Active Cornering Enhancement suspension system, and Goodyear won with their Extended Mobility Tires in 1998.

This year, eight manufacturers made technology presentations to the AJAC journalist panel. General Motors presented Quadrasteer, the new four-wheel steering system introduced for GM full size pickups. Audi showed off the technology inside their new Continuously Variable automatic transmission. The third presentation was on Honda’s I-VTEC engines. I-VTEC is their Intelligent Valve Control system currently available in the 2002 Honda CR-V and the Acura RS-X.

The fourth entry was from an oil company. Pennzoil-Quaker State presented a new Quaker-State engine oil specially formulated for higher mileage engines. Subaru always puts on interesting technical presentations and this year they showcased some unique methods to produce the low emissions and high horsepower of the turbocharged engine featured in the sporty Subaru WRX.

BMW’s new technology plays a small but significant part in their 2001 M3 coupe and cabriolet performance. It is a torque-sensing limited slip differential that optimises traction and performance under a variety of road conditions.

Jaguar chose safety for their presentation, and showed off their Adaptive Restraint Technology system found in all 2001 Jaguar XK series cars. Impressive. The last presentation was from Volvo, and was the easiest to see and understand. They demonstrated their Integrated Child Booster Seat that is optional for the 2002 model year.

Some of these technologies appear very simple. Others are extremely complex. Deciding on a single winner is not easy because each has its own strong merits. All the technologies benefit customers and that makes everybody a winner. To select the “best”, one must look at the significance of the technology to the manufacturer, to their customers, and even to the public.

This year, all the technology was “new” with either significant improvements to existing systems or completely new designs. The “new” part of the award is significant. There may be existing technology that is equally impressive, but to compete, the technology must represent progress in design and implementation.

Over the next few weeks, I would like to describe each of these technologies and the rationale for their implementation. I hope you find it interesting and perhaps you will make your own decisions on the “Best New Technology” and see if you agree with the AJAC panel of judges.

Volvo Integrated Child Booster Seat
Click image to enlarge

To start off the series, I would like to describe Volvo’s Integrated Child Booster seat. A $400 option on all 2002 Volvo models, the Child seat allows one to switch from a comfortable adult seat to a safe child seat in just a couple seconds. It couldn’t get much simpler: grab the rear seat lower seat cushion and lift. A portion of the lower seat cushion raises and sits on top of the rest of the seat to provide a raised child seat. The car’s head restraints still protect and the original adult seat belt then fits properly on the child. All the belts built-in safety features such as pretensioners are still operational.

Designed for children in the 3 to 10 age group, the integrated child seat protects what is most important to us: our children. It is the ease of use and anytime availability that makes this seat “New” technology.

Studies by Volvo involving 48,000 accident victims, 28,000 crashes, and over 5000 children showed the importance of proper seats and seat belt use in automobiles. Over 80% of the children were belted in at the time of the accident and over 3000 of them used booster seats of some type.

Children belted into a booster seat are 78% better off in an accident than an unrestrained one. Not surprising perhaps, but they are also 45% better off in a booster seat than just using a seat belt without one!

How many parents put their children into a car without using a booster seat?

The Volvo Integrated Child seat is as easy to use as buckling your own seat belt. Child seat technology is only effective if it can be used and Volvo is making it very easy for us to use. Child seats are not new, but Volvo’s implementation of them definitely is.

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