While the debate rages on in the U.S. over the threat of larger sport/utility vehicles devastating smaller passenger cars, Delphi Automotive Systems' array of collision-avoidance technology is more likely to find a market first in Europe and Japan, says Robert Schumacher, Delphi's director of advanced engineering.

"Our research shows that between 37% and 74% of rear-end collisions are preventable by early-warning systems," Mr. Schumacher tells a group of journalists during a future technology seminar at Delphi headquarters in Troy, MI. "Just 0.5 seconds in early warning would reduce rear-end collisions by 60%."

Ultimately, Delphi is working on a package of products that would create an electromagnetic cocoon around a vehicle, using a combination of lasers and radar.

The closest to market of these appears to be adaptive cruise control (ACC), which others, including ITT Automotive and Robert Bosch Corp., have been developing for several years. The system will automatically slow the car as it approaches a slower moving vehicle in the same lane.

Eventually, Mr. Schumacher envisions ACC being able to warn of an impending collision and even to intervene in controlling the vehicle so it can change lanes or brake automatically.