Each year leads to some successes. And our vehicles (at least over long spans of time) are quantifiably getting smarter and better at protecting drivers. Even more excitingly, while many novel technologies exist only in premium models, these are becoming less costly to produce. It’s only a matter of time before they flow down into mainstream markets.
Here are six of the most promising atavistic auto technologies—tech that has the potential to save many, many lives in the decade ahead:
The rise of smart technology has allowed automakers to install sensors around a vehicle’s exterior that alert a driver to potential hazards. These cameras analyze the scene around a vehicle and detect obstacles, pedestrians, and other hazards. The addition of night vision sensors will help reduce the number of deaths and injuries from distracted driving.
Think of it as the ultimate cruise control–instead of keeping your vehicle at a set speed, this tech keeps your car safely within your lane. Using cameras and smart sensors, a computer will sense when you’re drifting out of the lane and make the necessary adjustments without driver input. This technology could slash the number of driver inattention-related accidents.
Adaptive cruise control already comes with premium car models, but we’ll soon see it on more affordable cars. Like lane keeping, adaptive cruise control uses cameras, sensors, and radar to keep your vehicle at a consistent speed and adapt to the pace of traffic on the road. In other words, your cruise control will help keep your vehicle at a safe distance from other cars.
With smart technology, a vehicle will soon be able to sense when a collision is imminent and apply the brakes at maximum force to slow or avoid impact. Emergency braking may engage if a driver isn’t putting the brakes on fast enough. This technology could save many lives, especially when you consider that people in the highest-speed collisions are most likely to experience permanently disabling injuries and death. The difference between a crash at 65 MPH and one at 80 MPH could be the difference between a mild concussion and a serious brain injury: Every little bit of prophylaxis helps!
Inclement weather, black ice in particular, is often the source of multi-car pileups on our nation’s roads. State transportation officials in Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada are testing technology that will warn motorists when they’re about to hit black ice. It works with sensor technology—a vehicle’s sensors will assess the surface temperature of the road and other weather data to provide a likelihood of bad weather conditions to a central computer system, which sends messages to the driver. Officials can adapt this technology to potholes and other hazards in the near future.
Traffic lights that are meant to turn green in response to oncoming traffic often ignore cyclists, so one North Carolina company came up with a solution. An app that connects to a rider’s GPS sends a signal through the internet and turns a traffic light green upon approach. The Austin, Texas, area is testing this method, which may become the standard for lights in the city in the next few years. Proponents also hope it will be applicable to cars, so lights will stay green longer for large streams of traffic.
Many of these technologies are lifesaving on their own, but together they have a synergistic effect. These future auto technologies will soon (fingers crossed!) make our roads safer for all.