Advances in automotive safety have been gaining speed, with vehicle structure providing increased occupant protection and advanced systems helping avoid accidents. But as we were reminded at CES 2014, more improvements are coming around the bend through connectivity, with information being shared between the driver, car, and road. As a result, more lives will be saved and property damage will decline.
Companies and auto manufacturers have been working hard toward the goal of reducing accidents and fatalities using a combination of ideas. Below is a sampling of innovations that have great potential to increase driver safety.
Safety where the rubber meets the road. Tires act like the feet of a car, and when they are worn and underinflated, accidents can happen. Continental showed off a tire-pressure sensor that lives within a tire instead of being mounted on the wheel. It claims that the new product will provide, with great precision, specific mileage information, pressure, tire depth, and even notify the driver when a tire needs to be replaced. It will also set off a warning when the vehicle is overloaded with cargo.
Self-driving cars get closer to reality. Automakers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz are working on the next step to autonomous driving through a feature called traffic jam assist, which can control the car in stop-and-go traffic. It is currently available on the new X5, but due to U.S. regulations, the driver is still required to keep one hand on the wheel. The hands-free version is available for use in Europe. Such a system has promise in reducing fender benders in low-speed drives.
Sensory overload. More sensors and cameras, as well as lasers, are expected to go on vehicles to provide greater accuracy to monitor the vehicle’s surroundings and help prevent accidents with vehicles and pedestrians. Continental is showing a future 360-degree surround detection system to help with that goal. We experienced these benefits of such systems when riding an eight-person robotic shuttle, the Induct Navia, at CES.
Watching out for pedestrians. Bosch is showing off its active pedestrian protection system at CES that can detect obstacles in front of the vehicle by their movement and engage automatic emergency braking. This allows the radar to see a person before the driver and act accordingly to potentially save a life. Volvo has similar technology on the market now, known as City Safety.
Talking cars. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication has great potential to avoid accidents, and thereby reduce deaths, by allowing cars to "speak" to each other. This has been in development for years now. (Read our detailed report "Vehicle-to-vehicle communication can prevent crashes.") In the next few weeks, we should hear whether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will mandate that this technology be available on all cars in the future. Ford showed a demo for CES participants to see how V2V can make a huge difference on the road. As we’ve seen in the past, the V2V can be transformative in safety, fuel efficiency, and in aiding driverless cars. One other cool thing we saw included an aftermarket rearview mirror that integrates forward-collision warning, lane departure, and a rear-view camera.
Stay tuned as we will continue to report on these developments and other exciting new safety initiatives and advances.
See our complete CES 2014 coverage.