More than a million people die around the world in car accidents each year. Modern vehicles already contain many safety features, including seat belts and airbags – but could new technologies eliminate crashes altogether?
Most accidents happen because of human error rather than mechanical issues. And so scientists are developing cars with the hope that the vehicle itself can help out the driver.
In Sweden, researchers for Volvo are testing an auto-braking system that stops a car immediately if it senses another car is getting too close at speed. A sensor system maps out objects around the car and engages the brake if a collision is about to happen – even if the driver has his foot on the accelerator.
And testing is going well, with lead scientist Erik Coelingh convinced that his system will work. He has a vision: “in the future there will be no collisions, will be no fatal accidents with vehicles anymore.”
Meanwhile in Detroit, researchers for General Motors are developing a prototype windscreen, which they hope will enhance drivers’ vision – the Advanced Vision System.
Three infrared cameras monitor the driver’s head position and the exact direction he or she looks while driving. And when visibility is bad, key features can be highlighted on the windscreen, making life easier.
Thomas Seder, the man leading the project explains how it would work on a foggy day.
“[We can] highlight the edge of road, augmenting reality effectively, making it more apparent to you so that you can release your attention to other things that you should be scanning for.”
So all you have to do is make sure you drive between the lines. Sounds like a video game, doesn’t it?
Can a car ever become totally safe? Somehow I doubt it.
The main issue with any technology is always reliability. Pretty much every gadget fails to work now and then. And if drivers come to rely on these innovations rather than on their own awareness of the road, it could be disastrous.
The use of these systems may help to make driving safer. But I can’t help but think that finding ways to improve the skills of drivers might be a better long term bet.