Driver and occupant safety in the era of ‘data and connectivity on the move’ is bringing a paradigm shift. The criticality has increased due to several in-vehicle distractions, the demand and ability to fulfil the needs of all occupants. The distractions could be hazardous to pedestrians and other vehicles on highways or in the inner cities. The number of accidents and pedestrian injuries has increased two fold in the last decade. This increase is in spite of the many additional standard safety features that are offered across the board in many vehicles.
The introduction and research on external airbags over the hood for pedestrian safety is a new development and will help mitigate the increase of these incidents. Night vision systems in vehicles are more prevalent and integrated in vehicles, and have been very helpful in driver assistance at high speed and inclement weather during nights and dusk. The integration of laser technologies in the headlights has expanded the line of visibility for drivers. These headlights also have lesser energy consumption and lower the carbon footprint of the vehicles.
For reverse gear and parking, NHTSA in the US has a regulation in place that requires mandatory rear view cameras. Landscapes with automatic parking, intelligent speed adaption, forward collision warning are starting to be standard features in some of the high-end automobiles in emerging markets. The intelligent speed adaption and forward collision warning are available across many platforms in the mature markets. The newer Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices do not allow the driver to start the car if the breath alcohol level is above a pre-defined limit.
CONNECTED CARS & FUTURE
In the connected cars, texting between cars is becoming a standard feature. The connectivity of the phone with the car and doing away with the multiple displays in the console is a safety enhancement since the driver does not have to shuffle between screens and features. The phone could eventually replace the console and provide a huge cost saving, lower carbon footprint and real estate saving in the vehicle. The phone can be interfaced to the vehicle to give pre-warnings to the driver and occupants, display speed of vehicle, cruise control, battery charge, fuel levels and other warnings as necessary to the driver. This would be a huge leap in safety and cost saving since a lot of the data processing and management could happen at the back end.
If required, there could be add-on modules to the vehicle of the phone service. The real-time interface of the road with the vehicle through a smart phone to be able to identify objects on the road and steer the vehicle automatically, control the speed of the vehicle and apply brakes when in those conditions, could be a spectacular safety enhancement in the automotive world.
The driver safety paradigm is also rapidly evolving with the changing diaspora of autonomous driving. The ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) enhances and adapts the vehicle for safety and better driving. The safety features in these vehicles are designed to avoid collisions and accidents by alerting the driver to potential problems, or to avoid collisions.
Adaptive features are not limited to automating lighting, providing adaptive cruise control, and automated braking through a connection to smartphones. Blind spot detection and lane correction are a given in ADAS. For lane correction, there are integrated features in their seats if the driver begins drifting out on a highway. Of course, self-learning cars will be an elevated playing field.
Vehicle safety diaspora will continue to change radically in the digital era with a lot rubbing-off across current non-ADAS. More of these safety features will become hygiene due to regulations and vehicle safety sustainability in the coming years.