Self-driving cars, cars that “talk” to one another, and vehicles with augmented reality displays have long been the fantasies of popcorn-munching Sci-Fi moviegoers. But are those futuristic safety technologies merely the creations of Hollywood minds, or ones that will soon be as commonplace as airbags and seatbelts? In-actuality, there are several revolutionary car safety advancements that are much closer than you might think. Here are 3 that could be appearing soon at a dealership near you.
AUGMENTED REALITY DASHBOARDS
We’re all familiar with Terminator movies, in which hi-tech robots look at a person or object and then quickly access information about who or what they are. Augmented Reality (AR) will function in much the same way for drivers, as critical information about what they’re viewing pops up on the windshield right before their eyes. In other words, AR will supply additional information to enhance what a driver’s senses normally take in.
For example, if you are approaching another vehicle too fast, a red box will appear on the AR display with arrows showing you how to safely maneuver around it, avoiding a collision. When coupled with an AR GPS system, the safest lane would also be highlighted on your windshield to guide you out of harm’s way. In addition, engineers are looking at ways for cars to notify drivers when to turn without having to take their eyes off the road.
Some manufacturers, like Toyota, are also looking into AR for vehicle passengers. This would allow them to use a touch screen to zoom in on objects outside the vehicle, select and identify those objects, and then acquire car-to-object distances. And finally, auto makers like BMW are researching AR for automotive technicians, which allows them to wear special AR glasses to locate defective parts, and then access a display with instructions on how to replace them.
You’re quickly approaching a busy intersection as another vehicle runs the red light and enters your path. You didn’t see them, but your car did, as it warns you of the impending collision while automatically applying the brakes. Welcome to vehicle-to-vehicle communication, or “V2V” for short. Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA; www.nhtsa.gov) identify human error as the number one cause of traffic accidents. (1)
To overcome those human mistakes, V2V works when a vehicle transmits a wireless signal about its location, direction and speed. That information is then received by surrounding vehicles, which use it to calculate safe driving distances. Engineers are also working on V2V applications that would allow a car to take evasive measures should another vehicle enter its path. And, researchers are now testing vehicle-to-infrastructure capabilities, or “V2I”.
V2I picks up signals from stationary objects like road signs or traffic lights, and then notifies its driver to be alert. V2I could also be used to obtain road condition information from traffic management systems, and then relay to drivers the best possible route to take for smoother journeys.
Many drivers spend countless hours commuting back and forth to work. Wouldn’t it be great if your car would drive for you, allowing you to sit back and relax? Welcome to self-driving vehicles, a concept that may be available soon if Google engineers have their way. In fact, Google has already been testing this technology In several states during the past few years.
Some of Google’s cars “learn” the details of a given road by driving on it several times first with a human operator. After that learning process, the cars then drive themselves based on the data they’ve acquired. They also “remember” pedestrian crossings, and to stop when approaching them. In addition to recording images of the road, Google cars use built-in computerized maps to “see” road signs and traffic lights well before humans can, and to choose alternate routes.
To do so, they rely on lasers, cameras and radar to identify and process information about their surroundings much more quickly than drivers can. If self-driving cars become mainstream, they could end up driving in packs on busy roads using a system called “platooning”; essentially performing as one cohesive unit. Some researchers believe that platooning would lead to fewer traffic jams, accidents, and shorter commutes for all.