Today’s automobile incorporates air bags crumple zones and automatic seatbelts. These products are all intended to protect the driver and passengers in the event of an accident. The next innovations coming up the pike are intended to help you avoid an accident all together.
Collision-avoidance systems would benefit all drivers and, hopefully, reduce the
annual number of U.S. traffic deaths, which is currently over 40,000. These intricate systems have been used in aircraft for years. However adapting such a large application to a vehicle will be a chore as there is a far greater variability of a multitude of different drivers and conditions then are encountered in the air.
Two current technologies undergoing federal guidelines by the Department of Transportation are:
The Carnegie Mellon University study using an experimental station wagon outfitted with a video camera. The camera is pointed straight ahead at the roadway. The camera records the view and downloads the data to a computer, which determines the car’s position. The driver will then be alerted if it looks as though the car is headed off the road or into an obstacle.
The Calspan project uses vehicle-mounted radar that “looks” both sideways and in front of the car—scanning for any other vehicles that are moving fast enough to pose a threat. Steering sensors and accelerometers feed data into the computer to give it a hint of what the driver is intending to do, and the computer examines the logic of the system.
Collision avoidance starts with a system called adaptive cruise control. This is like regular cruise control, but with the addition of radar sensors that can “see” the traffic ahead of you and slow your car to maintain a safe following distance. If you are a notorious tailgater, this system over-rides your own bad driving habit.
Collision avoidance systems can also sound alarms or flash warnings on the windshield if the sensors determine that your car is getting to close to another car too fast. The system will then apply brake pressure perhaps sooner than you would. If the computers and sensors determine that a crash is unavoidable, they also work to tighten up seat belts, adjust headrests, or close the power windows and sunroof to make the car safer in the collision.
Collision avoidance also includes other related technology, like lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring systems. This technology works by using a camera to “see” the road and alert the driver if the car begins to drift out of a lane, or if another car approaches from the side.
The simple is these systems make your car safer. Avoiding accidents isn’t just good for your health it saves time and money that would be spent dealing with the aftermath of a collision, too.