- Car manufacturers are introducing more and more safety innovations as standard in their vehicles
- Technology, software and on-board computers can help reduce the risk of a road traffic accident by alerting drivers to hazards around them
- The cars of the future are swiftly becoming a reality
Recently, there has been an incredible amount of innovation in car safety technology. Seatbelts and airbags are now being supplemented by intelligent technology that can prevent car crashes from even happening in the first place.
From collision warning software to adaptive headlights that help you drive at night, we look at ten safety innovations that could revolutionise the way we drive.
Intelligent cruise control
Cruise control now does more than just keep your car travelling at a constant speed. Sensors and radars inform the cruise control settings which automatically adjust your speed to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.
If your cruise control senses the possibility of a collision, the car will automatically brake and tighten the seatbelts to protect you. As soon as the lane ahead is clear, or traffic has naturally sped up and returned to normal, your car will go back to its original cruising speed, without you having to lift a finger.
Motorbikes and other cars can sometimes sit in your blind spot, making it dangerous for you to pull out, overtake or change lanes. Blind-spot detection notifies you if there are vehicles in your blind-spot while you're driving.
Different vehicles alert you in different ways; some have a flashing light when you indicate to turn, some cause the seat or steering wheel to vibrate, others may beep to remind you to double check before you manoeuvre.
Have you ever caught yourself almost nodding off at the wheel? Long journeys or driving at night, can be incredibly dangerous if you're not completely alert and awake.
Sensors in your car can detect if you're starting to drift out of your lane, and even keep tabs on your posture, position of your head and eye activity to see if you’re falling asleep or driving erratically.
Vibrating seats or steering wheels and in-car alarms can wake you up – some car systems are even able to slow the car down safely and engage stability control of the wheel (although none of this tech is a suitable alternative to a proper rest).
Night vision assist
Once the stuff of James Bond movies, thermal imaging and night vision cameras can now help you to spot obstacles in the road and improve your visibility at night up to 1,000 feet away. Dashboard displays show a picture of the road ahead, highlighting things that are hard to see with the naked eye. Adaptive headlights are also being fitted in some vehicles as standard, meaning they follow the direction the car's travelling in, rather than pointing straight ahead.
Gone are the days of having to drive to your local petrol station to test your tyre pressure. Fast becoming standard in most new cars, sensors at the wheels alert you if the air pressure in your tyres is too low. BMW introduced this feature in all its models back in 2006.
Low tyre pressure affects your steering, causes wheels to overheat and can result in blowouts meaning loss of control of your car – dangerous for you and others on the road around you. These sensors are an intelligent way of telling you if you need to add some air.
Some cars go one further by coming with run-flat tyres, which allow vehicles to continue travelling up to speeds of 50mph even with a puncture.
Until now, car airbags have not 'known' whether you're tall, short, wearing your seatbelt incorrectly – or even reaching for the box of tissues in the passenger foot-well. Car manufacturers have now developed occupant-sensitive airbags to accommodate different sizes of passenger, vehicle speed and child seats; enabling them to inflate and adapt in different ways to minimise any injury from a collision.
Most cars already come with rollbar extension and automatic seatbelt tightening if you roll your car. Some vehicles now go one step further by quickly adapting the acceleration and brakes to help you keep control of the car when you've whizzed round a corner too quickly.
Emergency brake mitigation
New braking technology differs from AEB (Auto Emergency Braking) or ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) by identifying when the driver makes a panicked emergency stop – and helps by applying additional brake pressure to shorten the stopping distance.
There are now lots of different innovations being included in cars to help in an emergency situation. Some of the emergency response features include immediate alerts to emergency services, automatic fuel shut off when the airbags deploy, and door unlocking to allow emergency services to get in your vehicle quickly to help you.
Tree stumps, shopping trolleys, road signs and animals – no-one wants to back into something while they're reversing their car. In addition to sensors which beep at you if you're getting too close to an obstacle, rearview cameras give you a real-time view of the back of your vehicle, helping you reverse safely.
We're sure that the innovation won’t stop there. Automotive journalist John Silcox gives us his predictions of what the car of the future will look like.