Road Safety Week takes place between November 18th and the 24th, with thousands of organisations, schools and businesses taking part in initiatives and awareness events in a bid to educate people about road safety issues. It’s a valuable event which can make a real difference to people’s lives by making them safer motorists.
One of the key themes in this year’s event is driver distraction. Mobile phones, satnavs, gadgets and gizmos have made it even more tempting for drivers to take their eye off the road-and even for a split second this can be fatal. But not all technology has to be a distraction; used correctly, there are some ingenious devices and software designs out there which can help drivers stay safe on the roads.
Our friends at Evans Halshaw have put together this list of interesting tech developments that could make driving safer. Some are ready to use, others are in the pipeline and some are just ideas on the drawing board at the moment, but all show that in-car technology has its place in ensuring driver safety.
GT’s driving camera
Some top-end vehicles are now utilising in-car cameras which alert drivers to potential looming hazards, such as driving too close to the vehicle in front or straying out of lane. The latter feature could even save a life by waking a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel, and now South Korean company GT says it has made this technology available to all drivers.
The GT camera is mounted in the car, and connects to an Android smartphone via a dedicated Wi-Fi link. Via the associated app, the smartphone then provides a voice alert when there is cause for concern. With the device set to retail for around $100 (Â£61) later this year, it could allow even the oldest budget car to enjoy these high-end safety features.
The intention engine
Vauxhall’s parent company GM is working on advanced engines which will actually analyse your driving history and provide suggestions for you based on your perceived ‘intent’. Sounding a bit too much like Skynet? Well, the example GM gives to showcase the advantages of this technology is refuelling. Rather than risk being caught stranded somewhere on the side of the road having run out of fuel, or a driver getting stressed by hitting the red line and worrying about finding a petrol station, the intent engine will examine your proposed route and let you know when your most suitable refilling spot is nearby-it will even factor in price so you save some money, too!
Making life more comfortable
Stress behind the wheel causes distractions; if you’re worrying about where you need to be, how to get there or simply just don’t feel comfortable, your mind is not fully focused on the road. Ford has a range of new technology advances which it believes can make life more comfortable for drivers. The launch of the Evos concept recently showcased a cloud-connected car, synching your diary and calendar with your car so you always know where you need to be next. The vehicle also features a driver ‘wellness’ adjuster: it monitors the driver’s heart rate through the seat and adjusts the driving experience accordingly.
Ford is also introducing touch controls to its dashes and steering wheels. What this will eventually mean is that drivers will be able to customise their steering wheels with all the buttons and functions they use regularly, meaning no need to take your eyes from the road or your hands from the wheel.
Invisible snow and rain
Driving in the rain or the snow is obviously less safe than driving on a sunny day: snow and rain not only reduce grip with the road but impair visibility. While winter tyres can give you a little more traction, there’s been nothing to make it easier to see-until now. Scientists at computing giant Intel and Carnegie Mellon University have developed a Xenon LED headlamp which is so smart, it can track raindrops as they fall and not shine light on them.
The result is that of the raindrops a driver would normally see, 75-80 per cent of them are eliminated, while overall brightness is reduced by just five or six per cent. It may take a decade before these headlamps are available on production vehicles, as the main problem is the huge amount of processing power they require. However, with the speed at which that area of technology has developed in recent years, they may well arrive sooner than that.