Barbara Terry is an automotive expert, off-road racer, columnist for the Houston Chronicle, and author of “How Athletes Roll.” Barbara recently moderated a panel at the New York International Auto Show titled “Perspectives on Innovation in the Automotive Industry,” a discussion presented by Plastics Make it Possible®. We asked Barbara some questions about her experience at the New York International Auto Show and how plastics have made a difference in her career.
Barbara, thank you for joining us in New York to moderate the Plastics Make it Possible® panel. What were some of the most interesting pieces of information you felt came out of the discussion?
First of all, thanks for having me at such a great event! I really enjoyed hearing the insights from the four superb experts that sat on the panel. One piece of information I found particularly interesting was from Aaron Robinson of Car & Driver Magazine. When we were talking about recent safety innovations, Aaron described the evolution of micro-airbags, where manufacturers are developing smaller and more targeted airbags to work with larger front and side airbags to protect passengers in the event of a collision. One example of this is the seatbelt airbag Ford recently produced in the 2011 Explorer.
How do you see plastics continuing to evolve in the automotive space? What are some of the most interesting applications you’ve seen?
It amazes me to think back to the days of solid metal cars in comparison with the technology and applications of plastics we’re seeing today. I see plastics continuing to help make cars safer and lighter, whether it’s my off-road race car or the truck I drive in Charlotte every day. One of the most interesting applications I’ve seen of plastic is in some of the high-performance vehicles. High-end automakers are using material like carbon fiber reinforced plastics to help keep these cars aerodynamic and high-performing while reducing the amount of fuel they use.
As an off-road racer, you rely on the latest technology to keep you safe. Oftentimes, an innovation will start at the professional level and ultimately filter down to consumers. How are plastics playing a part in your off-road safety equipment today?
I have always said that I feel safer in my race car than I do in any street car, in part because of the use of plastic safety equipment. When I am strapped in my seat with my five-point nylon safety harness with my carbon fiber and plastic helmet strapped snugly to my head, I feel that I can take on anything safely. Without plastic safety equipment, I would not have a career in racing, and I know many racers rely on safety equipment made possible by plastics.
Do you have any exciting events coming up that Plastics Make it Possible® should know about?
I am holding a series of events called Cars and Parr. These events include car workshops taught by me and feature musician John Parr!