Tech advances that could make your car safer

Thanks to technology, our cars are now safer than they’ve ever been. And that technology is constantly improving. So, we’ve taken a peak into the not-too-distant future and looked at some of the current innovations that could soon be featuring on cars here in the UK.

Putting on a display

Panasonic has developed technology that allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road while informing them of any dangers ahead. Its modified Renault Twizy is able to recognise objects in front of the car (its equipped with nine cameras) and warns the driver by displaying alerts in an augmented reality windscreen (head-up) display.

By moving other displays, including the speedometer, from the dashboard to the driver’s eye level, and projecting images on the screen to eliminate the need for mirrors, the company also claims it could help to get rid of potential driving distractions.

‘Augmented reality technology means that the head-up display can be used to make the driver aware of potential dangers,’ Panasonic said of the vehicle. One UK-based manufacturer has already ordered a test vehicle, so this could be something we see rolled out in the near future.

Car technology to make your car safer with a screen display

Brake time

Where a driver fails to react in time, cars with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) can be life-saving. Sensors detect obstacles in the road and apply the brakes, where needed, to stop a collision. For cars travelling at higher speeds, the technology could reduce the severity of a crash.

Since its introduction in 2012, AEB has been seen as such a success that all newly registered HGVs now come equipped with this technology, thanks to European legislation. ‘AEB is probably the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to making cars safer through automation,’ says David Bizley, chief engineer at the RAC. ‘If every car were fitted with the technology, it would significantly reduce the number of accidents. That’s because drivers not taking notice of what goes on around them is a major cause of collisions.’

Thanks to the success of the technology, some of the key thinkers in car production have predicted the system could soon be a standard feature in all modern cars. The future is now.

Car technology to make your car safer with improved brake timing

Total turn-off

Of course, using your mobile phone while driving, unless it’s hands-free, is illegal in the UK. But in the future, we might not even have a choice in the matter, as new technology is being considered to make mobiles, well, immobile.

The Department for Transport is reportedly considering technology to automatically block phone signals in moving cars, while Nissan is developing an in-car armrest that will make use of 19th-century technology to block all cellular, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals in moving cars, in the hope of reducing smartphone distraction while driving. The armrest is lined with a Faraday cage – a box made of a conductive material that blocks electromagnetic fields – an invention dating back to the 1830s.

This could be a welcome development from a safety aspect, as RoSPA (the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents) reports that even using a hands-free mobile while driving is a significant distraction and substantially increases the risk of the driver crashing.

Technology making your car safer with handfree

Motor mouth

Cars could soon be chatting with each other and making small talk with road signs. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications is effectively a wireless network whereby cars transmit messages to each other, relaying information including speed, location, the direction of travel, braking and loss of stability.

Cars will also receive data from road signs, smart traffic signals and other sources incorporated into the network, using cameras and sensors built into the vehicle. It could mean that your car will know more about what’s going on than you do!

The US has already announced plans to make car manufacturers equip new vehicles with V2V technology, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimating this could prevent up to 80% of the current accidents that don’t involve alcohol or mechanical failure. Who knows when we’ll see this technology applied in the UK, but let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Technology to make your car safer with talking cars

Wake-up call

Are you paying attention? Soon your car could know the answer to that, giving you a life-saving nudge if you’re too tired or distracted to be safely behind the wheel.

Reports indicate that car manufacturers including Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen have been testing systems that will be aware of a driver’s behaviour and take action to bring their attention back to the road.

These systems, from manufacturers like Delphi and Tobbii, use cameras and software to track the driver’s gaze and head movement, even sensing if the eyelids seem to droop. If the driver’s attention wanders, a noise is emitted and the seatbelt vibrates to jolt the driver back into action, alerting them that they may need to take a break. There’s no view as to when we’ll see this technology in the UK, but we’ll be watching this space.

Technology to make your car safer preventing tiredness

Robot telepathy

The idea of sitting back and allowing your car to drive itself could take some getting used to, when the first autonomous vehicles do hit the road. That’s why a team from Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing technology that uses brain signals to correct any errors the robotic vehicles might make.

This amazing system would allow you to control robotics using only your mind, simply by agreeing or disagreeing with any ‘decisions’ the car makes on the road. This is still very much in the developmental stage, but will be a seriously impressive addition to a brave new motoring world.

Technology making your car safer with robotic knowledge

Tracking your teen

Handing over a set of car keys to your teenage son or daughter has the potential to cause even the most trusting of parents to have a breakdown.

That’s where Volvo’s ‘red key’ comes in handy. The nifty pocket-sized device allows you to control your vehicle even when someone else is behind the wheel. For example, you can limit the speed and program cruise control so the vehicle maintains a maximum distance from the car in front. It can even stop your teen blasting music out the car windows as you can set a maximum volume.

Techology making your car smarter with tracking systems

And another exciting development…

The Mercedes E-Class will emit ‘pink noise’ to protect your hearing from damage should you have a crash. The system uses a natural reflex in our ears, where a muscle contracts in order to protect the eardrum. When sensors in the vehicle have detected a potential crash, it emits a specific sound frequency to trigger that reflex and minimise hearing damage that could occur after a loud crash. Another way to keep us all safe on the road, which can only be a good thing for you and your family.

Make sure your driving future is as bright as possible, by checking that you’re getting a good deal on your car insurance, right here.

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