12 Jun A Driver’s Primer on Today’s Vehicle Safety Tech
For decades, safety was mostly dependent on the driver to drive as safely as possible, and hope that the other drivers on the road were also driving safely. While safety was still driver dependent, technology — the development of the headlight, direction signals, and safety belts — gave drivers a technological edge to be safe and secure while driving or if a crash occurred.
Today, technology is taking the next giant safety step. As the talk of autonomous vehicles gains traction, drivers are already reaping the benefits of early forms of this technology with a new class of safety features that are helping to reduce or avoid collisions altogether. Semi-autonomous features, such as automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warnings are giving drivers even more effective ways to stay safe on the road.
Frontal and radar-based collision avoidance systems are designed to avoid and reduce the severity of an accident by using sensors, radar, and cameras to measure the distance and speed between your vehicle and those around you. This can be especially helpful when traveling in urban areas with stop-and-go traffic.
Frontal collision avoidance systems are able to pair with automatic braking systems, allowing the vehicle to more proactively avoid a collision. According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS,) vehicles equipped with these technologies saw rear-end collision rates go down by 39%, while rear-end crashes that resulted in injuries were reduced by 42%.
Approximately 20 automakers are committed to making automatic braking systems standard in all new cars sold in the United States by the end of 2022.
Lane departure warning (LDW) systems are another useful method of collision prevention. These allow the vehicle to correct itself should the vehicle veer out of its lane, which may occur if you are distracted. The technology uses cameras to detect lane markings alongside the vehicle.
While side view mirrors are intended to maximize safety, blind spots are a common cause of accidents for all drivers. Blind-spot monitoring cameras and sensors are usually placed under the side view mirror, and are activated when a vehicle is in the process of changing lanes. If the system senses a car in the perceived blind spot, you will be notified through a visual aid, alarm, or physical vibrations.
Most fleet drivers are either familiar with or are driving vehicles equipped with backup cameras. Starting in 2017, new light-duty vehicles are required to be equipped with these cameras. While some of the systems are also equipped with cross-traffic alert technology, which will sound if any cars are crossing the vehicle’s path, rear view cameras are primarily a driver aid, a sort of enhanced rearview mirror that gives drivers a better view of their surroundings. And while not automated, rearview cameras can reduce blind zones for a driver by an average of 90%. (Note, these cameras do not replace the need to physically turn around and look both ways while backing up; many fleets have experienced issues where accidents occur because drivers relied solely on their backup camera.)
Gone are the days of intervening with cruise control when approaching a slower vehicle. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), also known as intelligent or autonomous cruise control, is a step above traditional cruise control, and allows you to pre-set the speed at which you are traveling, as well as the distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. An icon indicates when ACC is in use.
Enhancing Reliability and Safety
The main intent of all of this technology is to make driving easier and more reliable. Many automakers believe that they are only a few years from implementing fully autonomous vehicles. Business Insider estimates that as many as 10 million self-driving cars may be on the road by 2020. While this prediction might be a bit overly optimistic, the reality is that semi-autonomous vehicles — thanks in part to automated safety systems — are here and here to stay.
Whether it’s assistance with regulating your speed or automatic braking, you should be familiar with all types of safety technology and how to use it in order to maximize safety while on the road. While there is a “gee-whiz” convenience factor to much of this technology, as with any beneficial technology, automated driver safety technology is designed to keep drivers safe and secure, which should help put a dent in the fatal crashes — which peaked in 2016 at 40,000 — and make the roads safer for every driver on the road.