When discussing technology’s contributions, it is hard to overlook what it’s done for driver safety. Ranging from the development of the novice-friendly automatic transmission to collision avoidance systems, technology has always improved driving. New evolutions like augmented reality (AR) and driverless vehicles aim to take driver safety to the next level.
Our article on ‘2019 Applications of Augmented Reality’ detailed how some automotive giants have already signed up to use AR technology with AI voice-driven equipment. This allows drivers to focus on driving, rather than scanning screens. Future AR implementation, however, aims to superimpose a digital layer on the windshield showing virtual objects integrated with the real environment and visible on varying 3D depths. Information such as road conditions, navigation and geolocation, as well as vehicle-specific data can be superimposed so drivers can keep their eyes on the road.
While technologies like fully integrated AI and AR driving experiences are still a few years away, there’s no shortage of current examples showing how technology is making driving safer globally.
Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
Using sensors and radar, AEB can scan roads and warn drivers before applying full brakes. It’s just one technology Car and Driver cites as making driving safer by reducing the millions of rear-end collisions that happen every year. AEB can even tighten seatbelts and close windows if collisions are unavoidable. Additionally, Transport Canada’s article on AEB explains that more advanced systems can also detect pedestrians and large animals. The system is to be standard on new vehicles by 2022.
However, AEB can’t replace proper attention. It also may not always prevent a collision but will reduce its severity. Nevertheless, the extra assistance may make all the difference.
A common cause of crashes is fatigued drivers. That’s why Belfast Live covered the launch of a new driver drowsiness detection device in the UK and Ireland. The Fujitsu-made device is worn around the neck, where a small sensor attached to the driver’s earlobe gets pulse waves that gauge when a driver is fatigued. In Great Britain, it’s already being used by logistics company DHL after being tested on 60 of their drivers.
This is in addition to other telematics systems that provide vehicle information and driver behaviour statistics, meant to make driving safer. The devices are being used by fleet management and logistics companies to help improve driver safety. When it comes to fleets, driver tracking and management telematics provided by Verizon Connect helps track the time a driver spends on the road to minimise driver fatigue. Among other aspects, telematics tools also help track aspects like speeding and the use of seat belts. Here, technology demonstrates that not only can it detect bad driver habits but also correct them, which can lead to safer roads overall.
Autonomous driving capabilities
One must also mention driverless cars. Though not yet commonplace on today’s roads, the groundwork has been laid for their development. In fact, Audi’s A8 sedan features the world’s first Level 3 autonomy using visualising aids, long and mid-range radars, a front and several 360-degree cameras, 12 ultrasound sensors and a laser scanner. This means that the A8 can create a 3D map of its surroundings and “see” to 328 feet ahead. Like the Mercedes-Benz S class, also featuring semi-autonomous driving, the A8 has features like “Conditional Automation” where drivers can let the vehicle drive itself- -although they must intervene when asked.
Still, there are hurdles to overcome as regulators worldwide debate its safety risks. While autonomous vehicles have yet to catch on publicly, a San Francisco startup is already using them to change the construction industry. The company, Built Robotics, makes autonomous vehicles do dangerous tasks. It’s then likely that autonomous vehicles operating in similar specialised settings will gain traction before self-driving cars do. Still, this might form the blueprint for the improved self-driving cars of tomorrow.
Author: Lizzie Domingo