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Technology saving the lives of drivers

18.01.2013

WHILE the festive season is starting to fade into memory there’s no escaping the unacceptable number of people who lost their lives on our roads during this time. The official record is 1 465 but one wonders how many of these motorists were killed by their own errors and negligence.

This got me thinking, with so many technological advancements at our fingertips it’s only a matter of time before self-drive becomes obsolete. Could this necessarily be a bad thing? We already know that a self-driving car has been tested in America but other things are also in the pipeline that, should they come into effect, could save a lot of lives on our roads.

A rather basic driving aid that aims to ensure drivers keep their eyes on the road at all times, is a new touch-sensitive steering wheel. In short, it will allow drivers to call up the information they require on a head-up display on the windscreen and will show all the vitals to the driver, including your remaining fuel levels and speed.

How this differs from our current head-up display, is that it will be operated by a touch-pad on the steering wheel, instead of an excessive amount of buttons on the steering wheel. The driver will then be able to scroll to options like, dim headlights and set cruise control without taking a finger off the wheel.

It might seem like something small and minor, but it’s little innovations today that could save the future tomorrow. And while we are all becoming more technologically savvy, the latest smart phone apps also promise to offer great driver safety. How, you say? Well, I’m sure we’re fully aware that we can’t all afford to drive cars boasting the latest safety advancements such as lane-departure assist or driver-fatigue alerts like we find in top-end vehicles. Alas! Andrew Campbell has created an Android app called Carsafe, which allows the driver to use his/her phone as a safety device. Essentially, giving any cheap old vehicle additional safety features.

By simply mounting the phone onto the windscreen, the front camera, which points to the driver, will assess actions and blink rates. Should the phone sense the driver is drowsy or fatigued, it will beep and a coffee cup will appear - the same as in a luxury vehicle.

The other app that’s been developed is the lane-departure system. Traditionally, this system uses cameras and radars housed within the vehicle. However, the app uses the back-facing camera as well as the front camera to monitor your following distance and to check whether you’re weaving through traffic lanes. Admittedly, this technology might have its shortcomings initially, but the developers believe it will become common within the next few years.

Some other exciting innovations include a communication system which lets vehicles “see” out of a robotic eye of other cars on the road and allows it to map the upcoming road and adjust to the conditions thanks to a continuous 3D view of the area, which is created from the information captured by the other cars on the road.

By taking as much responsibility away from the driver, our roads should become safer thanks to the technology guiding us. While I’ll be the first to admit it will be a rather sad day when we aren’t allowed to operate our motor vehicles anymore and that a lot of the safety features are taking away the thrill of driving. Clearly, much more needs to be done because let’s face it, humans will always be irresponsible should an opportunity present itself. Losing 1 465 people to road deaths in a single month is horrifying and something has to change. Visible policing and the very best road conditions can help, but it won’t curb road deaths completely because somehow, somewhere,an unroadworthy vehicle will be operated by an incompetent driver and someone will lose their life because ultimately, we are the catalysts to road fatalities - not our vehicles.

Article written by Stuart Moir
18.01.2013
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