Cars of the future: Your safety and what to expect

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In recent years technology has leapt forward, more so than some of us could ever have imagined. From smartphones that allow us to stay online wherever we are in the world, to 3D printers that give you the ability to create functional products with just the touch of a button, technology has upped its game and the automotive industry is no different.

Car technology comes in many shapes as sizes, whether it’s the mechanics that give you the smoothest ride possible or the in-car entertainment that helps pass the time on a long journey, car technology has come a long way over the years, and things are about to step up a level.

As cars are becoming smarter and more advanced we’ve taken a look at some of the technology that you can expect to find on your vehicles in the coming years that will be installed to enhance safety and aim to reduce traffic accidents and collisions. Take a look at this graphic that highlights what ‘tech to protect’ you can look forward to in the near future.

Connected Cars

Why? Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology could help drivers avoid 70-80% of crashes.

How? A short-wave radio network allows cars to “talk” to each other and communicate with the objects around them. V2V could detect everything from dangerous road conditions to risky drivers, if you’re going in to a corner too fast, or even redirect you if you’re heading towards traffic.

When? Expect to see early versions on the road as soon as 2016.

Digging Deeper

Many cars already have technology and features that use ultrasound or radar to sense and detect obstacles, such as parking aids and parking sensors that inform drivers of how close they are to an object when parking in a tight space. V2V Communication, however, goes beyond that and allows vehicles to sense beyond the nearest obstacle to hundreds of metres and build up a clearer picture of the situation that they’re in. For example, if you’re behind a slow vehicle and you wish to overtake, V2V technology will inform you of any oncoming vehicles; something that current sensor technology doesn’t do and will also inform drivers of any oncoming traffic when attempting to pull out of a blind corner. This could save tens of thousands of lives each year as drivers will be better informed of hazards and risks that even the most cautious motorists won’t be able to detect.

Augmented Reality Dashboards

Why? Reducing the amount of head-down time will make driving safer and more efficient.

How? A combination of external sensors and eye-tracking technology work together to help identify potential hazards. Augmented reality technology then overlays real world images with digital ones so you see hazards highlighted, heads-up sat nav displays and even text messages on the windshield.

When? It’ll be at least 2018 before this becomes a reality.

Digging Deeper

Augmented Reality Dashboards (AR for short) provide drivers with information about the road, other vehicles around them and external conditions in a heads-up display on the windscreen to allow drivers to always look at the road. The information provided could be a range of items such as GPS and lane indication; things that you can find on a Sat Nav, but without the need to look away from the road, but AR also showcases new features such as informing drivers of how fast the car in front is going as you approach allowing them to remain at a safe distance or apply the brakes if you’re going too fast. AR should prove to be a big help when dealing with hazardous winter driving.

Biometric Sensors

Why? Biometric feedback could help you and your vehicle react to the road and increase safety.

How? Biometric sensors installed in the steering wheel, seat, and seatbelt measure everything from your pulse to your breathing, body temperature and even stress levels. The car will then react as it sees fit; blocking your phone from ringing, tapping the brakes or cutting power to the motor if necessary.

When? Mercedes and Ford are already trialling it, but privacy laws could keep this decades away.

Digging Deeper

Biometric sensor technology is being heavily researched and worked on by several car manufacturers, notably Mercedes and Ford. Biometric sensors in the steering wheel keep track of your vital health signs such as pulse, breathing rate and even the sweat coming from your hands to monitor stress levels, alertness, tiredness and even blood sugar levels. This information is all fed to a computer, monitored and then analysed, the computer then feeds a message or notification to the driver on the dashboard indicating that they need to take a break. The system can also block your phone from ringing if you are distracted and even cut power to the engine if you are not in a suitable condition to drive.

Mirrorless Vehicles

Why? A more comprehensive awareness of the traffic around you could reduce accidents.

How? Powerful cameras fitted where those bulky side mirrors used to be can relay high-resolution images to screens fitted in the door or the centre console allowing you a greater view of the traffic around you. There’s even the potential to combine this with augmented reality for heads-up warnings, monitoring and rear-view image feeds.

When? Expect prototypes to start popping up around 2018.

Digging Deeper

Again, an advantage with mirrorless cars is the time that the driver spends looking away from the road is reduced. A camera feeding the perspective of a side mirror to a screen located more centrally within the car allows the driver to check their mirror angles without having to turn their head to the side, keeping their eyes on the road. The cameras can also be combined with Augmented Reality and inform drivers of how far behind the car in the next lane is and how fast they’re going, allowing drivers to better decide if it is safe to pull out into the next lane or not. This kind of camera technology is a step up from the car camera and dash cam technology that we have presently.

Automated parking systems

Why? Avoid scraping your pride and joy as well as damaging other vehicles around you.

How? It’s simple, really. Find a suitable space, put your vehicle in reverse and then activate the system. You’ll need to operate the accelerator and the brakes, but the external sensors on the car will measure the space and guide you in – no hands needed!

When? VW have already launched Park Assist Vision (PAV), so now!

Digging Deeper

As mentioned previously, some parking aid systems are already in place in many new cars, but quite often still come as an optional extra in many packages so it may still take some time before every car is fitted with these safety features. Automated parking however is also coming into the general market allowing drivers to take their hands off the wheel and let the car to do the parking for them. This might not save lives or be a major safety feature, but will help to reduce the amount of insurance claims made for little scrapes and scratches caused by getting too close to other cars when parking.

Gesture Control

Why? Reducing the amount of time drivers spend with their eyes off the road will increase safety.

How? Sensors installed in the car track your hand movements. Flick, push or rotate your hand to control everything from the sound level of your stereo to temperature controls and even the sunroof.

When? BMW showcased gesture control at CES at the start of 2015 – so soon, we hope!

Digging Deeper

With the aim of improving road safety and driver awareness, Gesture Control tech systems give drivers the ability to control their devices such as stereo, mobile phone, climate control and other in-car technology without having to press any buttons. Once again, this allows drivers to keep their complete attention on the road ahead, not turning the radio up or answering an incoming call. This reduces time looking away and also the time that your hands are off the steering wheel, allowing you to react better to anything on the road.

Laser Headlights

Why? Extending the range of visibility at night-time could help to reduce accidents.

How? Rather than traditional bulbs, the laser headlights will be bounced off of a series of mirrors and reflectors to create a diffusion of light up to 1000 times brighter than an LED. Because the lasers are being diffused, there will be no solid beam to unintentionally dazzle other road users.

When? BMW’s I8 premiered lasers in 2014, but it’ll be a few years before domestic cars go all Star-Trek.

Digging Deeper

You’d be forgiven for thinking that these headlights are basically big laser beams that shoot light ahead of you so you can see where you’re going, blinding everyone else as you go. However this complex, but very clever, lighting system doesn’t quite work like that. Online car magazine Jalopnik describes them as ‘laser powered headlights’. Through a series of complex systems including laser technology, Phosphorus and carefully placed mirrors, laser headlights produce light that is 1000x more powerful than LED lights but consume 2/3 of the power. The light produced won’t blind oncoming traffic as the light’s temperature is just slightly lower than natural daylight, and in case the car is in an accident and the laser loses alignment and bypasses the mirroring and filtering processes, the system will automatically shut down as to not be shooting laser beams out of the front of the car.

We’re sure you’ll agree that these concepts are all exciting, but ultimately necessary if road safety is going to continue getting better. Keep an eye out for future car technology that might be being put into production in the coming months and years. And who knows, maybe we’ll have fully autonomous vehicles sooner rather than later!

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