You may have heard about the automated vehicles being tested that will take over driving for you and deliver you safely to your destination, either with a push of a button or by using an app to order a ride. However, did you know that many of the technologies that will enable those vehicles to self-drive are already available in your new vehicle today?
State of the art
For example, today’s vehicles have optional or standard equipment that can sense potentially dangerous situations before you can, alert you and then perform life-saving functions or accident prevention/mitigation actions with or without your engagement. They’re called Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. They have several other individual names that vary by vehicle manufacturer, but in the end, they all perform similar functions.
These amazing capabilities use radar, LIDAR, cameras, ultrasonic and other sensors to understand what is going on around the vehicle, as well as how other vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and animals near you may cause an accident (or place them and you in a dangerous situation). The vehicle gets input from 20 to 100 times per second from a variety of sensors that are received by the on-board computer software that assesses the path and speed for both your vehicle and for other objects in your vicinity. When the software determines there is a threat for a potential collision, it immediately alerts the driver to take action. If it is too late for the driver to act or senses that the driver has not reacted, the vehicle will apply the brakes to avoid the collision automatically, if possible.
Silent safety measures
Electronic Stability Control has been standard equipment on all cars since the 2012 model year, which helps prevent accidents by applying the brakes individually at each wheel in the amount it takes to keep the vehicle from sliding out of control without the driver knowing it’s happening, preventing roll-over accidents and other spin outs. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates 1500-2500 lives will be saved once all vehicles have this technology.
Autonomous Emergency Braking is on many cars today and will become standard by 2022 on most vehicles. It helps prevent accidents by automatically applying the brakes sooner and harder than the driver normally would in order to prevent or mitigate a rear-end collision. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports a 50 percent reduction in these types of crashes when equipped. The radar and camera can determine the closing distance and speed between two objects and either alerts the driver or automatically brakes, if needed. This includes sensing pedestrians, bikers or designated animals, in addition to vehicles where a collision is imminent.
Lane Keeping Assist is an active system that, when the vehicle begins to leave its intended path or lane, it automatically keeps you in the lane. It is easy to steer through if needed and is turned off at lower speeds. Around half of all single car accidents involve the vehicle leaving its intended path unknowingly. This technology can keep you going where you want to safely.
Additional safety tech
Many other technologies are helpful, such as Blind Spot Detection where the driver is alerted to objects alongside of the vehicle not seen by mirrors or other means. While backing up, Cross Traffic Alert tells the driver that there is an oncoming vehicle from the side that may collide with you and, if equipped, will automatically brake your car to prevent the collision. Rear Back Over allows the driver to see behind them by use of a camera and will use other sensors to beep when objects are getting too close and, if equipped, will automatically brake to prevent running over children or objects. Adaptive Headlights allow the headlights to track the curvature of the road while going around the curve, which gives much better visibility to road hazards and people in the darkness ahead of you.
We are excited about the new standard and optional safety equipment that can help keep you and your family safe, both inside and outside of the vehicle. Make sure you ask your car dealer about these safety technologies the next time you are getting a new vehicle.
Douglas Campbell, President, Automotive Safety Council, [email protected]