Technology That’s Improving Vehicle Safety and Reliability

Vehicle Safety Technology – The auto industry is evolving at a rapid pace. Every year, new features and tech make vehicles safer, more efficient, and more reliable. Vehicles with self-driving features, for example, are now reasonably common on the roads. These vehicles can improve safety by helping the driver pilot their vehicle. They handle many monotonous driving tasks as well.

Autonomous driving isn’t the only vehicle tech innovation that automakers are implementing into their cars, though. Other recent forms of driving assistance features can improve safety for all motorists.

Vehicle Safety Technology

The Importance of Automobile Safety Innovation

According to the Association For Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), about 1.35 million people lose their lives in car crashes every year. 38,000 of those deaths occur in the US. ASIRT also reports that another 4.4 million in the U.S. receive injuries that require medical attention. On top of that, crashes have a significant economic impact. In 2017, car crashes led to $75 billion in medical costs and productivity losses.

Human error is responsible for about 90% of all traffic accidents. Safety innovations can reduce the number of traffic deaths and injuries as they help drivers control their cars.

A Brief History of Vehicle Safety Technology

Cars haven’t always been safe. The three-point seat belt we take for granted wasn’t invented until 1959. It took nine more years for the US government to make these seat belts mandatory in new cars. Even then, no states required drivers or passengers to wear seat belts for decades. In 1985, New York made wearing them mandatory. Only children 10 years old or younger had to wear seat belts before that.

Automakers have since developed safety features to improve vehicle reliability, reduce crash chances, and protect occupants if a crash happens:

  • Air bags deploy in a crash to reduce the chances of hitting the dashboard or steering wheel. Regulations require manufacturers to include front air bags in all vehicles, but side air bags are not mandatory.
  • Anti-lock braking keeps wheels from locking, helping the driver steer in emergencies.
  • Telematics uses GPS to monitor vehicle status and location. Telematics technology has a variety of applications, from locating stolen vehicles to managing fleets of school buses.
  • Tire-Pressure Monitoring Systems use sensors to monitor your tire pressure continuously. If they detect low tire pressure, a light will go off on the dashboard.
  • Traction Control uses sensors to prevent wheels from spinning too fast on slippery surfaces. Doing so can keep drivers from veering off the road.

Most consider these features bare minimum these days. To meet the demand for safer vehicles, many automakers have developed advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).so it is easy to find. According to the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, ADASes “…monitor driver input and the environment around the vehicle and warn the driver when they detect the possibility of a collision.” 

Innovations in Vehicle Technology

Here are some of the most common, advanced driver features found in new cars:

  • Adaptive cruise control: accelerates and brakes the vehicle based on the speed and distance of the car in front of the driver.
  • Automatic emergency braking: some vehicles with collision warnings will brake if they detect an imminent crash.
  • Blind spot detection: if the driver puts on their turn signal and the car detects a vehicle in the blind spot, the car will alert them.
  • Collision warning: vehicles will beep if they detect an imminent crash.
  • Heads-up displays: projects critical information, such as speed and fuel level, onto the windshield in front of the driver. Doing so helps the driver keep their eyes on the road.
  • Lane departure warning: alerts the driver via a beep or seat vibration when it thinks you’re drifting into another lane.
  • Rearview cameras: for better driving visibility. These provide excellent rear visibility when backing up. 
  • Rearview cross-traffic alert: warns you with beeping and rearview camera visuals when it detects traffic behind the driver when he’s in reverse.

These features are saving lives, however, technology can fail. Drivers must understand how safety features work as well as their limitations. Leaning too much on advanced driver assistance features could prove fatal. 

Another concern is the complexity of modern safety features. When accidents happen, collision repair professionals often have trouble diagnosing and fixing every problem. More time analyzing the car leads to higher labor costs for the customer. Technology has stepped in with repairs as well. Vehicle scanners can diagnose issues within 30 minutes and provide itemized damage reports. Plus, they can detect if something went wrong during repairs, saving drivers from making several repair appointments.

Electric Cars: Improvements in Efficiency and Reliability

While we wait for widespread autonomous driving, we can see some of the automotive future right now. For example, electric cars are now a common sight on the roads. Even luxury car brands are developing fully-electric vehicles (EV). 

Without a combustion engine, electric vehicles are cheaper to maintain, cost less to fuel, and are more reliable. Since they don’t rely on fossil fuels, they are also better for the environment. 

Electric vehicles are also safer in many cases. Electric vehicles tend to have lower centers of gravity, decreasing rollover chances.

One safety issue with electric cars is their lack of noise. As the Department of Energy points out, “pedestrians may be less likely to hear an EV than a conventional vehicle.” Car manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are looking at ways to mitigate this issue by making electric cars emit noises.

Lastly, electric cars provide additional convenience. Without a bulky gasoline engine, electric cars have room for additional storage space. Plus, you can charge your car at home — no need to stop at a gas station.

The Future of Vehicle Technology

Autonomous automobiles are one of many transportation technologies that will change the world. However, we won’t see fully autonomous vehicles for several years, and it will likely take much longer for all new vehicles to come standard with self-driving. 

These vehicles face ethical, legal, and technological obstacles. Since autonomous vehicles take control away from the driver, the legal system must now determine how to assign liability in accidents. Also, a world of self-driving cars won’t happen overnight. Fully autonomous vehicles will share the road with non-autonomous vehicles for decades. The public will have to grow to trust fully autonomous cars as well.

Until then, automakers will continue to develop better technology that improves vehicle efficiency and keeps drivers safe.

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Article Author Details

Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer living in the pacific northwest who has a variety of interests including sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more.