Although the number of people killed in car crashes continues to be worryingly high, we are finally seeing a sustained decrease in these numbers. According to a report issued by the Transportation Department, the number of Americans who died in vehicle crashes fell for the second year in a row and the tech on modern cars plays a major role in this much-awaited improvement.
Unlike older cars, new models come by default with safety features that act like an extra set of eyes. Sensors, radars and cameras monitor the road from all angles and do what your old car couldn’t do: take over when you’re making a mistake or when something on the road puts you in danger.
Superior safety features that are becoming mainstream
When talking about car safety, autonomous vehicles are perhaps the ultimate goal. A perfected, centralized, driverless car network where human error is eliminated will most likely bring down the number of car crashes to a minimum. However, self-driving cars are still imperfect and, until the technology becomes error-proof, the safety systems on regular cars are doing an impressive job.
Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
Historically, rear-end crashes account for more than 1,500 deaths every year, but automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems could reduce this number dramatically. In fact, according to a Consumer Reports study done on 72,000 vehicles, drivers who have these systems installed on their cars have already avoided dangerous crashes thanks to them. The study concluded that AEB helped 57% of drivers avoid a collision, not just rear-end ones, but also those involving roadside animals or careless pedestrians.
The aim of car security systems shouldn’t be just to avoid a car crash, but also to influence driver behavior in a positive way and increase responsibility on the road. By default, many car manufacturers such as Ford, BMW, Volvo, and Nissan equip their vehicles with cameras and sensors that trigger audio-visual warnings when the driver doesn’t use the car accordingly. For example, if you don’t put on your seatbelt, don’t keep the recommended distance from the car ahead or don’t use the turn signals, the safety system will alert you. On newer cars, this data can also be forwarded to someone else. For example, parents of teenage drivers can see how safety their offspring are using the car. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 62% of drivers who had safety warnings installed on their vehicles reported changing their behavior and being more responsible on the road.
While active, steering assistance systems intervene when the driver isn’t paying attention and accidentally switches lanes. For example, if a driver falls asleep at the wheel sensors detect that the vehicle has left the normal driving zone, the steering assistance system immediately takes over and brings the vehicle back to the center of the right lane.
Driver alcohol detection systems
Although this system isn’t yet mainstream, there are currently several projects into place to reduce the rates of DUI. Based on IoT technology, these new systems have breath sensors that the concentrations of alcohol in the air and, if it’s above the maximum permitted amount, they shut down the engine, trigger an alarm, and make the warning light indicator go off. The technology is still being tested, but experts believe that soon alcohol detection systems will become an integral part of smart cities.
Pedestrian detection systems
Even if you act responsibly and respect all the rules and regulations of the road, accidents can happen if a pedestrian crosses the street on the red light or suddenly jumps in front of your car. Although these systems work best on slower speeds, the technology is getting more and more advanced and makes every second count. For example, in a test-track scenario, the 2019 Subaru Forrester and the 2019 Toyota RAV4 managed to avoid pedestrian dummies at 25-mph.
One major benefit of all the technologies above is that they can also be installed on older cars, so that drivers don’t need to purchase a new and expensive vehicle to reduce the risk of road accidents. In general, tech is revolutionizing safety and the same technologies used on cars also help businesses create better working environments. AI in particular has a disruptive power and many car manufacturers are beginning to apply its potential in terms of car safety.
Despite safety features, speeding remains a top concern
Although car safety systems managed to slowly reduce the rate of irresponsible behavior, one behavior they haven’t been able to eliminate is speeding. Unfortunately, accidents that occur at high speeds are more lethal and safety systems can’t avoid them. As much as 25% of all traffic deaths are caused by speeding. Every year, record numbers of car accident claims are submitted because of speeding and technology isn’t yet developed enough to stop this.
The nearest solution could come from the EU, which plans to make mandatory a technology called intelligence speed assistance. In a statement in March 2019, the European Parliament said that this technology could reduce road casualties by 20% by reducing engine power when the driver goes over the speed limit. If it receives confirmation from all member states, all new car models will be required to come pre-equipped with speed-limiting technology. Some car makers already have this feature. For example, several Ford cars have special cameras that read traffic signs and can reduce the speed based on local regulations. Volvo joined the cause too and from 2020 onwards, the top speed on all their cars will be lowered to 112 mph. of course, the widespread implementation of this technology could face some challenges, especially economic ones. High-end cars tend to reach stronger markets first, and the poorer countries in the EU will have to solve their infrastructure problems first.