Five Technologies That Will Make Future Cars Safer
Cell phones that warn drivers when people are crossing in front of them. Bicycles and cars that communicate with traffic lights. Sensors in cars that quickly alert other drivers to black ice, potholes or other hazards. A low-priced camera system that brings high-tech automatic braking to the masses.
These life- or time-saving technologies are being shown this week at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Detroit. Click through to see five smart things coming to your car in just a few years.
Pedestrians sometimes wander into traffic. Imagine if their cell phones could alert oncoming drivers. In a system being tested by auto-parts supplier Denso, computer software in the car would receive the phone signal, analyze speed and direction, and instantly determine if the pedestrian will cross the car's path. That cuts down on false warnings. "It even can go as far as applying the brakes for you," said Doua Vang, a Denso engineering manager.
The technology is five or more years away. Cars need receivers and radio frequencies need to be set aside by the government. Sending out a constant signal will quickly drain a cell phone battery. And engineers are working on distinguishing between a phone in a pedestrian's pocket from one held by a passenger inside another car, Vang said. The hope is fewer pedestrian deaths. In 2012, the last year for which data is available, 4,473 pedestrians died in traffic crashes, the highest number in five years.
Black ice that forms suddenly is often blamed for multi-vehicle pileups worldwide, because drivers can't stop in time. Now, state transportation officials in Nevada, Minnesota and Michigan are testing technology that can warn people when the first car hits ice. "We're using it now," said Steve Cook, field services engineer for the Michigan Department of Transportation, who wouldn't guess how long it will take to get all cars on the system.
Sensors on the vehicles measure road surface temperature and other weather data. They also check the pavement for potholes. The cars relay the information, as well as data on location and windshield wiper, antilock brake and traction control use, to a central computer that sends messages telling other drivers to slow down.
We've all seen television commercials advertising fancy radar systems that automatically brake a car to avoid a crash and save an inattentive driver. The systems are typically expensive options, around $3,000, on high-end luxury cars. But auto parts maker Aisin aims to bring the technology to mainstream cars.
The system's cameras, two in the front and two in the back, can sense children, other cars and even deer, and automatically brake the car, said Ichiji Yamada, deputy general manager of chassis systems. Engineers wouldn't reveal the price, but said Aisin is working with Toyota to put the system on mass-market cars around 2020. The cost is lower because of advancements in camera technologies.