The Safety Advancements in Automobile Technology

Posted by Leslie Miiller
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Safety is paramount to the manufacturers of heavy duty equipment and automobiles today. Innovation is driving the car industry to go well beyond the simplicity of seat belts and automatic brake systems. More and more, advanced technological systems are becoming common place in our cars, trucks, and transportation equipment.

The question must be asked: does technology actually improve safety in vehicles?  Let’s explore some of the ways that safety on the road is advancing, as well as some areas that need continued improvement.

Everyday Advancements

Innovations in vehicle safety options have improved significantly over the last decade, and are becoming common place in all vehicles, from moderately priced compact cars to big rigs costing as much as six figures. Adaptive headlights and forward collision warning systems are just two of the many safety features that have been added to vehicles to make them safer.

cars on freeway at nightAdaptive headlights have the technological capability of redirecting the beams of headlights according to the direction the vehicle is traveling. This is especially helpful on narrow or winding roads, helping the driver to illuminate potentially hazardous areas that normally wouldn’t be visible to them. Additionally, adaptive headlights are safer for other drivers as well, as they don’t point directly at oncoming traffic like traditional headlights do. This takes the pressure of temporary blindness caused by direct light off of the oncoming driver, allowing them a clearer view of the road and cars as they approach. Though this technology is still relatively new, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) is encouraged by the studies they’ve completed with the smart headlight systems, and estimate that adaptive headlights could have helped in 143,000 crashes in the United States in 2008.

Forward collision warning systems are capable of determining if the driver is about to hit an object on the road ahead, and alert the driver through an audible, visual, or haptic warning system. In a few systems, the car will actually self-apply the brake if danger is detected. For systems like these, not only do they help to prevent crashes, but they are highly effective in reducing the impact and as a result lessen the number of injuries that occur due to front end collision. Because of their effectiveness, the IIHS estimates that vehicles with automatic braking systems will reduce rear-end crashes by about 40 percent, and that systems with just collision warnings reduce crashes by about 23 percent.

Adaptive headlights and forward collision warning systems are just two of many technological advancements made in modern vehicles, and are a great illustration of the effective role technology is playing in making driving safer on a day-to-day basis. But what about for those who drive semi-trucks and other large (and often dangerous) commercial vehicles?

Trucking Safety

truck driverFor those drivers who make a living completing long-haul drives using tractor-trailers, commercial trucks, innovations to make their journeys safer are introduced all of the time. Lane departure and changing systems allow truckers to have visible access to what would otherwise be blind spots from their positions. Aside from active driving safety features, other technology like electronic logging devices and speed limiters hold drivers accountable to their daily driving limits as well as to speed limits.

Though common sense dictates that logging devices and speed limiters would work to the benefit of drivers, they often are frustrating additions. Although they make both the drivers of the trucks as well as other drivers and passengers on the road safer, they come at the cost of hampering deadlines and speed of service rating for truck drivers. These frustrations may be temporary though, as driverless technology is becoming closer to reality every day.

Currently, the commercial trucking industry is experiencing a driver shortage, and it seems as though the problem is not going away anytime soon. Driverless technology will help to impede that problem, allowing truckers the option to essentially turn on “auto-pilot” while they slip in the back of their rig for a rest. This will allow for continuous driving with minimal stops, allowing deadlines to be met, and drivers to be compliant with their hour of service rules.

shutterstock_767264296-[Converted].jpgDon’t be mistaken in thinking that “driverless” technology would fully exclude the driver—at this point, there is no way that tech could navigate urban landscapes successfully. Rather, it would be an asset primarily on interstate freeways, while still requiring the driver to be at the wheel to steer in the challenging city streets. Really, the driverless technology will solve more of a labor problem than a safety problem—it will improve productivity and competiveness of drivers, keeping them on the road more and working more hours, but in a much more efficient and safer way.

Technology vs. Human Error

Though advancements in technology are improving the safety features and functions of all vehicles, they are still only as safe as the driver behind the wheel. Despite the advancements in electronic awareness systems and intelligence in car components, automobile accidents and fatalities have been steadily on the rise over the last couple of years.

According to the National Safety Council, distracted driving is now the number one contributor to automobile accidents in the United States. More often than not, the distraction is the technology we carry in our hands or have imbedded in our dashboards. Screens from phones to tablets to car in-dash displays cause significant distraction, and often it only takes a fraction of a second to impede a driver’s ability.

It’s not always phones that are causing problems behind the wheel though—drunk driving, speeding, and reckless driving are also huge contributors to accidents. No matter what sort of technology a car possesses, if a driver is drunk, going too fast, or driving without care, they are putting their own lives, and the lives of others, at risk.

Self-driving cars are going to be a reality soon enough, and very well may alleviate the number of accidents caused by human error. But until that happens, the best way to improve safety in a car isn’t through technological advancements—rather it’s through being an attentive, sober, and speed-conscious driver that true advancements in safety can be made.

In Summary

Advancements in technology in vehicles are making our cars, trucks, and big rigs safer. We have more safety features as standard options in vehicles than ever before. The features help us to prevent accidents, see the road better, have visibility in blind spots, and may even at some point do the driving for us. Until vehicles can be fully autonomous however, our cars and trucks are only as safe as the people driving them. By staying alert, sober, and aware, drivers will be able to take advantage of the full benefits provided in their ever growing intelligent vehicles.                                                                                                        




Topics: Safety Technology, Trucking Safety, Safety Awareness

Who We Are

PRECO Electronics is a global technology provider that improves safety for operators, worksites, and the public. The effectiveness of our object detection radar systems is unmatched in heavy duty vehicle industries.

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