Tuesday

The Best Safety Lexus Has to Offer, Isn't for US

The new Lexus LS 460 that goes on sale this fall be able to parallel park itself without the driver touching the steering wheel. Pretty slick! Only problem is, some of the car's best high tech safety features won't be put on cars shipped to the US. They're being kept out of the US market.

Asian and European manufacturers are increasingly at the leading edge of sophisticated automotive safety technologies. Surprisingly, the new Lexus self parker can be had with some amazing safety devices in Japan and elsewhere but not in the US, although engineers in Japan say decisions about which features will hit US shores are still being made.

Cool safety technologies that are not likely to make it to US shores:

1. An advanced obstacle detection system. It's a series of cameras that can detect objects in the road the size of a small child. A forward looking radar detects reflective objects while two cameras detect shapes and distances. The two cameras work together to determine the size of the object also. The system then alerts the driver to the object and starts a precrash system that pumps ujp the power brakes. If the driver begins a panic evasive maneuver, it alters the gear ratio to increase the car's responsiveness. On the US cars the dual cameras are expected to be eliminated or deactivated.

2. A rear precrash safety system. It's a radar system on the rear bumper that determines if the car is going to be rear ended within 1.5 seconds. If so, it flashes the car's hazard lights. If the approaching car doesn't slow down, then it activates an intelligent headrest on the driver's seat within one second of the anticipated impact, to be certain the driver avoids a whiplash injury. The headrest uses sensors to determine the location of the driver's head and then extends the headrest forward to a point close to touching the driver's head.

3. An all speed adaptive cruise control. It works seamlessly from 0 to 85 mph and uses sensors and radar to allow a vehicle to slow down when approaching slower traffic in front and to speed up once traffic clears, all without driver participation in the process. In the US, part of the system will be disabled.

C'mon, Lexus, if it's good enough for everyone else, why not us too? Given the high quality level of Lexus products (after all, who else would recall 29,000 cars just because the seat belt buckles don't unfasten fast enough to suit the designers?), Lexus owners expect the best, so why not give it to us?