I Would Ride This Emergency Vacuum Brake at an Amusement Park

By Andrew Liszewski on at

Smart cars are already at the point where they can detect danger and react faster than a driver can. And to help ensure that a vehicle can actually stop in time to avoid an accident, a Swedish company has designed an emergency brake that grabs onto the road using extreme suction.

Autoliv’s Torricelli brake is still just a prototype at this stage, you can’t get one for your car yet. But in testing it’s already showing promise as a very effective way to stop a speeding car in a heartbeat.

Mounted beneath the back end of a vehicle, the brake uses a metal plate that’s automatically lowered to the ground with hydraulics when the vehicle’s sensors and electronics decide the car needs to stop. In a fraction of a second that metal plate then uses suction to create a vacuum that exerts somewhere around 15,000 newtons of force on the surface of the road, reducing the vehicle’s stopping distance by up to 40 per cent.

There is a catch to the technology, but you have to blame the human body. Stopping a car so quickly creates a tremendous amount of G-forces, and engaging the Torricelli brake at speeds greater than around 44 miles per hour has the potential to crush organs for any passengers inside wearing their seatbelt. And those who aren’t will instead find themselves launched through the windshield.

So while definitely effective, it seems there are a few hurdles for Autoliv’s new braking system before it becomes an approved after-market accessory for vehicles. But as autonomous smart cars become more common on roads, this still seems like a great way to drastically reduce accidents in a city setting where cars aren’t hitting highway speeds, but are still moving fast enough to cause serious injuries. [Autoliv via IEEE Spectrum]