In many countries around the world, motorists enhance their feelings of safety by decorating their rearview mirrors with lucky charms. The first BMW iX3 has taken this measure one step further using the latest technologies  – from the Driving Assistant Professional up to highly effective restraint systems. And in doing so, created an extra invisible guardian angel for drivers. Professor Klaus Kompass, Vice President of Vehicle Safety for the BMW Group, explains the protective functions of these features – and why he, too, has a little lucky charm in his car.

Picture of Professor Klaus Kompass.

Describing himself as “an engineer, really more of a rationally minded and acting person,” even Professor Kompass has a lucky charm hanging on the blinker handle of his BMW. “It’s a little, five-centimeter teddy bear that my daughter once gave me when she was still little.” This little bear comes along with every change to a new company car. “Does he bring me luck? So far I haven’t had any bad luck. So it seems like he may actually have some kind of effect.”

Professor Kompass heads the Vehicle Safety department, where all BMW Group brands are further developed at the same high safety level. It is here that many invisible guardian angels are installed in the new BMW iX3.

For example, the Driving Assistant Professional, which the BMW iX3 is equipped with as standard worldwide, offers active cruise control, a steering and lane guidance assistant, a lane-keeping assistant with active side collision protection, traffic warnings, an avoidance assistant, a wrong-way warning, and a local danger warning. “All this serves to prevent accidents during the driving phase,” says Professor Kompass.

BMW digital interface.

With the increasing automation of vehicles also come new challenges for developers: “How do we get drivers to put the right amount of trust in their vehicles? In the past, vehicles were primarily developed by engineers. Even more disciplines are in demand by now. “I now have a few psychologists in the main Vehicle Safety department,” says Professor Kompass.

"The psychologist best understands what’s going on in the human mind. Collaboration between technicians and psychologists enables the development of more effective interfaces between mankind and machine. Nevertheless: There will continue to be accidents for the foreseeable future,” he adds. “I’m a realist there.”

Good luck charm Ganesh from India on dash board.

In critical situations, the vehicle uses all available means to try to prevent a collision. This is where so-called active safety comes into play, for example with the rear-end collision warning and city braking function, or the pedestrian detection function. Drivers are warned when pedestrians are detected. If the driver doesn’t react immediately, the vehicle brakes automatically. “In many cases, the accident can even be avoided entirely,” says Kompass.

If the crash is still imminent, passive safety and the optimal interaction between the vehicle’s deformation structure and restraint systems is crucial. “Even those are initially invisible; you can’t see the airbags. Only when the need arises do they come out in just a few thousandths of a second, unfold, and protect the occupants.”

BMW is also working to improve protection for vulnerable road users: “The new BMW iX3 has a flexible front structure and a front flap that goes up on impact, as an additional deformation element to protect pedestrians.”

BMW charm hanging from rearview mirror.

After an accident, the vehicle stays active to protect its occupants and surroundings. The so-called post-crash i-brake slows down the vehicle as much as possible in the deceleration phase; this can reduce the risk of it skidding into an intersection or falling down a slope. In addition, an intelligent emergency call is automatically triggered and received by a call center that is manned around the clock. A call center operator will immediately contact the vehicle, while simultaneously receiving vehicle information and even a display of the probability of serious injury in that individual case. At the same time, a second operator will contact the rescue control center, informing them of where the accident took place and whether there are seriously injured people who may need a rescue helicopter.

Each one of these technical features can save lives, which is why Kompass doesn’t want to highlight any of them in particular. “For me, the highlight of the development is the entire vehicle: it’s a fortress of interacting safety functions,” the 61-year-old BMW expert says.

"That’s what’s fascinated me about vehicle safety for over 30 years now.” The biggest motivator for him and his colleagues are the letters from customers: “For instance, when someone writes to me, ‘My car sacrificed itself for me, for my wife, for my daughter, for my grandchild. We want for practically nothing.’ That’s the most wonderful thing,” says Kompass. “The best guardian angel is the car.”

Find out more about the BMW iX3 Premier Edition.

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