When we speak of innovation and new technology in the world of automobiles, there are two major concerns driving it (no pun intended). Despite what you may think, neither of these are the desire to make cars faster or more luxurious (although that impulse certainly still exists). Rather, it is all about safety – safety for the passengers of cars and safety for the planet.
The latter of these will be familiar to anybody who has witnessed the rise of the electric vehicle in recent years. Most of the major car companies have now committed to ceasing production of gas-powered vehicles by some time in the 2030s. Make no mistake, this is something that is fundamentally changing the way cars operate, both the gas-powered vehicles of old and the newer EVs, which are being constantly developed.
Coming to safety for passengers, this has been a concern for much longer than the harmful emissions cars produce. But despite this long history of innovation (ranging from the seatbelts first introduced by Volvo in the 1960s to things like the automatic parking sensors of today), improving passenger safety remains as important as ever, and it drives a lot of the innovation and research into new safety features for cars. That technology is by now incredibly advanced, and there is undoubtedly more on the way.
Novelty Versus Effectiveness
When we talk about new technology – of any kind – for cars, we need to consider that this technology is always heavily marketed and, despite its vital safety role, has the other job of selling vehicles to consumers. Accordingly, it is very important to cut through the marketing spin when assessing how effective certain car safety technologies actually are.
Thankfully, the research into this has been done and continues to be carried out. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for example, has already calculated, in lives saved, how effective much of the technology is. When we speak of the car safety technology available today therefore, we can be fairly certain that it works. The car safety technology of the future, on the other hand, remains to be properly vetted.
Nevertheless, the simple truism that cars are speeding hunks of metal with the potential to kill has always made car safety research one of the most enthusiastic existing anywhere. Today, the environmental impact of cars might get a bit more pressing, but interest in car safety remains entirely undimmed – because it saves lives.
The Car Safety Technology of Today
So, what are the latest technological and engineering breakthroughs that are currently saving lives on our roads? Here follows some tried and tested car safety technology that you can find in showrooms around the world today.
Lane Departure Warning
This technology has certainly saved lives. In fact, around 85,000 crashes, according the IIHS, could have been prevented in the year 2015 if this technology had been present then. Lane departure technology warns he driver when the vehicle begins to drift out of its lane. This prevents unintended lane departure on the part of negligent or tired drivers, which is a big cause of crashes.
Blind Spot Warning
One of the drawbacks of tackling the roads in a vehicle is that your ordinary vision is impaired – simply by the structure of the car. There are several blind spots in a driver’s vision that would not be there were they not inside a car. As you might have guessed then, blind spot warning technology is there to monitor these blind spots and alert the driver to objects and other obstacles present.
This technology also has the potential to be developed to the point where it can detect more than just physical obstructions. Technology which could detect potholes in the roads or slippery surfaces that occur within blind spots could be on the way.
Rear View Assist
This technology is pretty well known because it is a feature of many new cars, and not just the high-tech expensive ones. Normally, this technology uses a camera to show what is behind a driver as they are backing it up, but there are also versions of the technology which make use of the ultrasonic and radar. Furthermore, there are also variations of the technology, such as cross-traffic alerts (which warns about oncoming vehicles) and night-view assist, which can detect obstacles beyond the range of traditional headlamps (usually by using infrared sensors).
So, all that technology exists as things stand, but what about potentially upcoming technology that is set to change the face of driving in the future? As mentioned, as much of this involves eco-technology as it does safety, but there is no doubt that cars are set to become even safer still. Here’s how:
This one might sound a bit odd to some people – even creepy – but, soon in the future, our cars could be monitoring our mood, mainly to determine when we are tired or stressed, in order to send an alert recommending a driving break. They could also activate other automated responses, such as altering the temperature if you appear hot and sweaty.
3D printing is all the rage now, with this advanced technology finally becoming cheap enough for consumers to purchase. One of the things, however, that 3D printing can create are new airless tires, which work according to a honeycomb structure that bends and absorbs shock just like ordinary tires. The risk of blowouts and punctures could very soon become a thing of the past.
Of course, we had to include this one. But we can perhaps also say something more about what self-driving cars actually mean for safety technology. A self-driving car needs to store a great deal of data and activate automatic responses based upon it. This opens up opportunity for a great deal of other technologies too.
Pretty soon, we could be “riding in the cloud” with highly powered processors and advanced AI communicating with everything from traffic updates to other vehicles on the road. This technology has the potential to do much more than simply drive the car you are in. It could also recommend and plan trips for you, head for emergency exits (without requiring emergency escape signs), offer traffic advice, and automatically refuel – or, more likely, charge – when it needs to.
In the end, cars will get faster and faster and will more efficiently tackle the network of roads over which they traverse. One benefit of this is, naturally, is that they are going to get safer too.