New Predictive Technologies Aimed at Reducing Crashes

Monday, June 2, 2014

Traffic jamWe all walk around with smart phones, so why should we drive cars that are only somewhat intelligent? Almost all airplanes have crash avoidance technology built in, so why should we live in a world where car crashes kill so many people on our roads? Technologists have been asking these questions for years, and have devised a few feasible solutions.

  • Some vehicles already come with forward-collision warning systems. These systems warns the driver when the vehicle is approaching traffic too fast, and can even apply the brakes on their own by detecting the traffic and the speed of the vehicle. This mitigates the driver's manual braking response, thereby preventing some accidents. 

  • Adaptive headlights are also becoming common in new luxury vehicles. These lights guide drivers around corners. The system detects the vehicle’s speed and the direction of the steering wheel, and directs the lights onto the vehicle's intended path. 

  • Lane-departure warnings are also common in many new vehicles.  They tell drivers when they are drifting across lanes. Unfortunately, the systems don't distinguish between intentional lane drifts like those necessary for passing slow moving vehicles and avoiding obstacles, so many drivers have learned to ignore the warnings, possibly resulting in increased accidents.

  • Connected vehicle technology is the most advanced predictive system, and studies are currently being conducted on its success. Each vehicle's onboard computer communicates with the onboard computers of surrounding vehicles to prevent accidents. If two vehicles are about to crash, the computers will tell their respective drivers to take evasive action by, for example, braking. If the drivers do not respond, the aim is to allow the computers to take over the vehicles and brake them both. At this stage the chief difficulty is to find a wireless frequency that is reliably available to host the technology.

  • A similar plan is to build connected vehicle technology into cell phones so pedestrians and cyclists can also benefit from accident warnings. At this stage, the hurdles are the short working life of cell phone batteries, and the imprecision of the GPS technology on many smart phones.

All these technologies bring the day of small auto insurance premiums and driverless cars closer.

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