Advances in technology for vehicle safety

Speed sign scanning, invisible car hoods, & other car tech gizmos.

Vehicle features that improve driver safety have surprised consumers in the past few years. From the introduction of safety glass in 1927 and seatbelts in the 50s, cars have become increasingly responsive to the dangers drivers face during their travels. Features such as self-parking are small steps in vehicle-safety and performance innovation paving the way towards increasingly autonomous vehicles. GPS technology roused consumer excitement and expectations when introduced as a new feature in consumer vehicles, but for a while afterwards, notable vehicle innovations seemed to slump. In 2001, back-up cameras were introduced with Nissan’s Infinity to alleviate the rear blind spot infamously nicknamed “the killing zone.” Innovation in the mass consumer vehicle arena slowed again until Autonomous Cruise Control (ACC) systems were introduced with Volkswagen’s Touareg. AAC is a security feature that helps drivers keep a safe distance from other vehicles by automatically adjusting the vehicle’s speed until safe distance from other cars is re-established. By merging the technologies of proximity sensors, ACC systems, and vehicle cameras, car safety features have finally picked-up at an exponential speed. Carmakers have started to implement the type of technology that seems to work by means of magic. Steve Jobs once said great technology is indistinguishable from magic, and here are five vehicle security features that will work wonders for driver safety:

1. Dozing Driver Prevention

Volvo has been testing what they call “Driver Attention Warning System,” a vehicle feature intended to wake-up dozing drivers. Ford, Nissan, and others are developing similar systems that resort to blind-spot warning and object proximity sensors to detect when a car on the move is drifting out of its lane. Other systems use cameras to read the driver’s facial features. When the system detects any slackening of facial muscles it voices an alert such as: “You are dangerously tired. Stop as soon as it is safe to do so.” Other approaches to alert dozing or careless drivers include features that create a profile of the driver, storing information about their habits, which the vehicle system uses to alert the driver when careless driving patterns are detected.

2. Burglary Prevention Cameras

Cadillac has built a security feature into their new CT6 sedan that takes pictures of the surrounding areas whenever the burglar alarm of the vehicle is activated. Cadillac’s new feature utilizes the technology of cameras for parking assistance. If one of the car windows is smashed, the car’s anti-theft feature takes pictures and stores them in the vehicle’s memory system. The pictures may be of huge assistance when trying to identify and capture criminals. Cameras have become a standard on most sedan cars and their use is extending beyond parking assistance to include safety features such as night vision capabilities to identify hazards drivers may fail to notice. Paired with speed regulation technology, night vision cameras may identify objects such as large animals to avoid wildlife road traffic accidents.

3. Speed Regulation

Do you have a heavy foot when it comes to driving? Ford’s Intelligent Speed Limiter enables the vehicle to scan speed signs and helps the driver to travel under or at the speed limit by slowing down the vehicle. This feature adjusts speed gradually, not by engaging the breaks, but by regulating the accelerator’s response to the gas pedal.

4. Key Less Car Start

Viper and Crutchfield are two manufacturers that have developed key less car entry and remote ignition devices that may be installed in most cars, from Ford to Mini Cooper. The device may be purchased and installed by authorized dealers in your area. After installation, a manual remote (counterpart to the device installed in the vehicle) that the users may carry in their pocket activates the keyless entry feature, unlocking the vehicle when the driver approaches it. Users can activate the remote engine-start feature by pressing a button on the manual remote, which communicates with vehicles at a distance of up to 2,500 feet. In the Miami-Dade area, Viper keyless systems run at about $800 including hardware and installation. Keyless technology is not uncommon in new cars, so this device is of use to anyone driving earlier models.

5. Invisible car hood

Driving on paved roads this feature may not be of much use, but if you own an off-road vehicle and you’ve actually taken it off-road, you may find this feature by Range Rover quite appealing. While driving over unpaved roads, avoiding objects that could harm your vehicle is an impossible task since the hood of your car blocks your view of the ground. Range Rover has developed a feature that makes the hood of the car appear to be invisible. This feature uses the technology of screen displays and cameras, enabling drivers to have a clear view of the ground below. Nissan is using similar technology on their Rogue model, making the rearview mirror double as a screen displaying anything directly behind the vehicle, clearing the driver’s view of any passengers or luggage behind the first row seats. Many of the technology features implemented by automakers rely heavily on cameras and screens. If you were one of the few who sat through the 20th James Bond film, “Die Another Day,” you might recall Bond’s invisible Aston Martin. In that 2002 film an invisible car seemed far-fetched, now with the Range Rover’s invisible hood, invisible cars are a near reality.

The concerns of consumers rise as cars continue to merge with technology. In recent study, several car manufacturers admitted to having mined driver information through GPS devices and having shared trip information of drivers to third parties. In the same study, keyless systems such as Viper’s were denounced as lacking the necessary security features, stating that the keyless system could easily be cracked with an iPad. Data mining and online security have continued to raise debates regarding the privacy of consumers and the subject will remain prevalent as our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology. The benefits of technology come at a price, and users who wish to benefit from the “magic” of technology must also learn to protect their privacy by taking corrective action and becoming more informed and aware users.

Update: On the 26th of April, Miami will host the 11th annual Festivals of Speed show at Miami Downtown, Museum Park. Purchase your tickets here. Festivals of Speed features the latest in exotic vehicles, yacht, and luxury lifestyle.

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