QR Codes in Automobiles

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Leslie Lovre-King, Technical Assistant to R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive / Mechanical Engineer

QR Codes: You’ve probably seen them; you may have used them. Part Rorschach inkblot, part brain teaser maze, these square, black and white bar codes contain links to virtually any reference source imaginable. From manufacturing to marketing, online content to personnel records, these codes can be used by anyone with a smartphone: including vehicle crash first responders.

Most people likely have never – in a serious way – considered sawing a car in half, prying off its doors, or rolling a vehicle off its roof. If they have, then they likely haven’t considered the potential consequences of doing so. However, first responders have, and for good reason. Undeployed airbags, high voltage electric vehicles, fuel systems and many other systems pose potential significant dangers during rescue operations. Cutting, prying, or touching the wrong part or area at the wrong time can result in injury to both themselves, as well as vehicle occupants. Mitigating these risks requires knowledge, training and very likely, good fortune. However, beginning in 2013, Mercedes Benz began placing QR codes at various locations on its vehicles that, with a simple scan of a smartphone, provide links to a virtual roadmap of the vehicle and the systems within it that provide the most significant risk. By scanning these so-called “Rescue Sheets” before occupant extrication, first responders can safely navigate the vehicle and avoid those dangerous systems and area. Mercedes Benz places the QR codes on the inside of the fuel inlet door, an area it says is more likely to survive a crash.

The QR Code was designed in 1994 for the Japanese automotive industry as a means to track the manufacturing process, an ironic twist given it is now used to ensure a vehicle’s safe disassembly. Equally ironic is what the letters ‘QR’ represent: Quick Response.

Leslie Lovre-King, Technical Assistant to R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive / Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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