Vehicle technology fads come and go. Surprisingly it is a challenge to predict which innovations will actually change the course of business and which will fall by the wayside.
In the meantime, engineers and designers continue exploring safety solutions: how can we make cars safer, more responsive, more fuel efficient and easier to control?
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 exciting, 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 auto safety 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.
This article from Autoweek explains more regarding how pedestrian and bicycle automatic detection works in everyday life.
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. I see new vehicle advertisements all the time that tout this feature.
Imagine the safety improvements of this feature with the rise of distracted driving with people illegally using smartphones while driving.
Adaptive cruise control already comes with premium car models, but we’ll soon see it on more affordable cars. This is also called traffic aware cruise control.
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.
The purpose of this concept is more aimed at stop and go traffic rather than high-speed interstate driving or advanced driving on curvy roads.
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.
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.