Automobile manufacturers are working fast to introduce amazingly effective high tech safety features. These address three situations. The first is the need for earlier warning of a potential problem, a concept referred to as “support for driver perception”. The second is computer controlled accident prevention and harm reduction, also called “override” technology. The third situation being addressed is emergency response.
Supporting driver perception involves a variety of devices and software. These include cameras, image recognition software to analyze images captured by the on-board cameras, radar, and inter-vehicle communication to ascertain the position, direction and speed of automobiles, motorcycles and pedestrians relative to each other. Driver perception support will assist a driver with making a decision by rapidly and clearly relaying the data obtained whether by audio warnings, visual warnings, or tactile signals such as vibrating the brake or accelerator pedal or applying torque to the steering wheel.
Automatic speed control (also called “adaptive cruise control”) and directional adjustment are capabilities ofan override system. As a vehicle approaches a curve, for example, its navigation system will calculate the appropriate speed and the override system will make the needed adjustment. When an approaching vehicle (Car B) is hidden around a blind curve, the inter-vehicle communication system on Car A will ascertain the position, speed, and steering wheel angle of Car B. If Driver A begins to change lanes into the path of Car B, Car A’s override system will vibrate the accelerator pedal and pull Car A’s steering wheel in the opposite direction.
When it is clear that the driver’s maneuvers will not be sufficient to avert an accident,other override functionality being developed involves preparation to reduce damage and injuries by applying strong braking, firmly tightening the seatbelts to enhance the proper restraint of passengers and applying braking and steering assists to minimize the effects of a driver’s instinctive over reactive response. (Some of this is already in place in some new vehicles).
With respect to emergence response, today, public ambulance services are the main responder. Automobile manufacturers are using new technologies to become involved in the response. The concept is that when an accident occurs, the emergency response system in the vehicle will automatically transmit data to the manufacturer’s operation center about the accident including the location, vehicle type, deployment status of the airbags, and 15 seconds of video taken inside and outside the vehicle just before and after the moment of impact. Using two-way video and voice transmission, the operation center will communicate with the occupants of the vehicle to assess their condition.
Other refinements to the response system include on-board body sensors that will enable the operation center to measure the driver’s heart rate, respiration rate, and other vital signs. And if an accident occurs out of range of mobile telephone signals, the inter-vehicle communication system may be able to contact the operation center by relaying data through other vehicles.
Look for these features in new vehicles over the next two years. And please drive safely.