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Opel AG: Opel Vectra 2003

The new Opel Vectra – A Car with Sense and Senses: More than 40 sensors ensure a high level of safety and comfort

Rüsselsheim. The new Opel Vectra can hear, see, feel and smell. In fact, with more than 40 sensors, the Vectra has more sensory organs than a human. Passengers benefit from these sensors with every kilometer they travel in the completely re-designed mid-size range, which makes its debut on European roads in the spring of 2002. A deluxe, electronic climate control system and a comprehensive safety package, together with a host of other convenient and practical features, all rely on these sensors.

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With the help of a patented "energy balance" system, instead of a conventional reactive unit, an optional dual-zone climate control system works out and maintains the temperature on board the new Vectra. The basic data needed to make it work is supplied by a series of electronic feelers. One sensor sets the "starting value" temperature inside while another constantly measures the outer temperature and stores it as "reference value". Data on the direction and intensity of the sun´s rays, collected by a sun sensor, are also fed into this complex calculation. The system employs an air quality sensor as well which sniffs the air outside the car to detect pollutants and activates an air re-circulator when levels rise beyond a pre-determined limit. This also works in reverse too – if the air quality inside the car falls below a certain level, fresh air is circulated back into the car. Moreover, the process is interrupted automatically after a pre-set length of time in order to refresh the interior atmosphere.

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Another group of electronic sensors ensures that the new Vectra is among the safest cars in its class. These include quick-reaction crash sensors to activate the front, side, and curtain airbags, and the seatbelt tensioners. An optional seat occupancy detector sends a signal via a transponder to prevent passenger seat front and side airbags from deploying in the event of an accident, if the seat is empty or if a special child’s seat is on board.

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Sensors Ensure Active and Passive Safet

To enhance active safety, acceleration sensors report to the new-generation electronic stability program, ESPPlus, if the vehicle is deviating off its vertical axis and if it needs to apply the brakes to one, two or three wheels. Revolution speed sensors continuously monitor wheel rotations to be sure they correspond to the driving speed. If one of the wheels threatens to lock, the ABS intervenes; if it is likely to spin, the traction control is activated and the engine output is reduced. Road contact is also meticulously monitored by sensors on the inner sides of the valves which constantly check tire air pressure. If the air pressure falls below the required measure an indicator on the instrument cluster informs the driver. The same happens when the disk brake lining, also monitored by a sensor, approaches the wear limit. And when there is a risk of black ice, the outside temperature sensor sends a signal which appears as a warning message in the central display. Inside the engine, electronic "ears" are constantly listening for unwanted ignition knocking, while other sensors provide the engine management system with information on exhaust gas quality, and still more diagnose the condition of the oil, so that service intervals can be determined more accurately.

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Drivers and passengers in other cars also benefit from the outstanding perceptiveness of the new Vectra. On models with Xenon headlamps, height sensors detect the movements of the car body and automatically adjust the headlamps in real time to prevent the drivers of oncoming cars from being blinded. Anti-pinching sensors in the windows and sliding roof stop them from closing at a pre-defined resistance level to prevent injuries, especially to children traveling in the car.

Electronic Helper Takes Pressure off the Drive

The strain on the Vectra driver is also relieved in many ways with these electronic helpers. The optional rain sensor, for instance, detects the intensity of precipitation from the light refraction of the drops of water on the windshield, and regulates the speed of the wiping intervals accordingly. In addition, optical sensors screen off the interior and driver-side exterior mirrors automatically if there is a high incidence of light. On models equipped with a "Park Pilot", the distance to obstacles in front of the vehicle and behind it is measured with ultrasound. The information is then passed on as an acoustic signal to tell the driver when he or she has run out of space to maneuver. In the Vectra models equipped with navigation systems, sensors are also used to tell the driver where he or she is at any given moment. With the Global Positioning System (GPS), the navigation computer uses satellite signals to work out the car’s current location. This information is then compared with the maps stored on CD-ROM and fine-tuned with the help of the ABS wheel sensors.

Sophisticated Controls for Eight-Way Electronic Comfort Sea

Highly attentive sensors also make sure the Vectra driver is protected against unwanted surprises if an attempt is made to adjust the optional eight-way electric comfort seat while traveling. To prevent dangerously improper use of the seat – whose length and height, seat and seat back angle can be adjusted – the full range of adjustment is possible only at speeds of up to ten kilometers per hour.

If the car is traveling faster, the driver has access to only half the seat back angle and length adjustment. The seat position can be finely adjusted at any time, but one cannot be unexpectedly moved away from the pedals. The Vectra comfort seat is moved into the ideal position by four electric motors about the size of soft drink cans. At the push of a button these actuate – via a gear – those gear wheels, which are otherwise operated manually via wheels and levers. To make sure the seat does not jerk when it is being moved back and forward electrically, the number of revolutions increases in predefined stages, ensuring very smooth movement.

Memory Function for Individual Configuration

Electronic sensors also monitor the driver-side memory function, a standard feature with the electric comfort seat. Up to three seat positions can be stored simply by pushing a button right on the seat itself. The individual configuration can be used to enhance comfort even further with the help of the central locking system’s remote control. The setting chosen for the seat and the position of the interior and exterior mirrors are stored when the car is locked. If the driver’s door is opened within a minute of the car being unlocked, the corresponding sensor recognizes the last user, and the seat and mirrors return fully-automatically to the desired position as stored. Couples who use different keys, for instance, will find their own individual settings when they get into the car.

The electronic sensors are also active when the car is parked, with alarm sensors for glass breakage, door opening, and vehicle tilting to deter unlawful entry or usage of the vehicle. And to make sure there is never excessive strain put on the battery, energy-consumers such as parking lights are switched off automatically to save energy if the battery is running low.

photos: Opel

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