Technological advances in the auto industry have made driving virtually fool-proof. New vehicles now come equipped with all types of crash avoidance features to help drivers stay safer on the road. Advanced systems that were once special options on select luxury models have steadily grown to become the new standard.
These systems are capable of assisting drivers with everything from advanced warnings of danger to automatic braking to help avoid or mitigate a collision. Great strides are also being made in artificial intelligent systems that enable the computers in vehicles to communicate with other computers or satellite systems to avoid crashes or delays due to construction or accidents down the road.
Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI - a nonprofit research organization that publishes insurance loss statistics on most cars, trucks and motorcycles on U.S. and Canadian roads) found that vehicles with crash avoidance technologies were much less likely to be involved in an accident and therefore, much less likely to file an insurance claim.
“Crash avoidance technologies” are a wide variety of features designed to help drivers operate their vehicles safely. These features monitor driver input as well as the environment and surrounding areas and warn the driver when a potential hazard is detected. A collision warning can be implemented in a number of ways. In some cases, they automatically brake or steer to avoid a collision. In other cases, lights flash or alarms go off to alert the driver. Some systems even use physical alerts such as vibrating steering wheels or seats to shake-up the driver's awareness.
This list summarizes some of the most common safety systems installed in new cars today.
Forward collision warning
This employs various sensors and cameras, like light detection and ranging (LIDAR) to warn the driver of a potential front end collision such as might occur when following too close. The system will issue a warning and may pre-charge the brakes for maximum effectiveness, if needed. In some cases, the brakes will engage autonomously. A crash may not always be avoided, but the reduced speed could mitigate the severity.
Some front crash prevention systems are able to identify pedestrians. These systems use advanced technology combined with sensors and cameras to spot people who are in or about to enter the path of the vehicle. Other front crash safety features include tightening seat belts, closing windows or adjusting seat positions or head restraints.
A night vision system uses infrared technology to produce an enhanced view of the road ahead. This may be coupled with an audible or visual alert if an obstruction is detected.
Lane departure warning
This feature prevents the vehicle from straying into adjacent lanes. It may alert the driver with physical, visual or audible warnings. Newer models actively resist moving out of the lane with the use of light braking and minor steering adjustments.
Blind spot detection
These sensors monitor the sides of the vehicle the driver can not easily see by just using side-view mirrors.
Parking and backing assist.
Most minor collisions are caused by poor parking and backing. With the use of back-up cameras and distancing detectors, this system can help drivers back-up and park safely. Many vehicles are also equipped with automatic parking features that parallel parks the vehicle for you.
This type of headlight pivots in the direction of travel to illuminate more of the road ahead. Combined with a curve speed warning system, which uses a combination of GPS and digital maps to monitor the road, drivers can safely maneuver unfamiliar roads and curves, even in the dark.
Fatigue is a very serious driving hazard. Sophisticated algorithms monitor steering, lane straying and behaviors such as eye blink rate and blink duration to detect the alertness of the driver. If any inattention or drowsiness is detected the driver is warned immediately, usually with a loud alarm or a voice command.
Electronic stability control.
This computerized technology improves the stability of a vehicle in bad weather. When a loss of traction is detected, the system may brake or steer as needed until control is regained. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, nearly half of all fatal car accidents could be prevented by the use of this technology alone.
Antilock braking system (ABS).
This feature prevents brakes from locking up during a hard slam on the brakes, which could cause the vehicle to skid out of control. The ABS pulses the brakes at small intervals so that they can not lock. Once the vehicle has slowed to a safe speed, the brakes return to normal.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), crash avoidance systems dramatically reduce the number of collisions and injury-related accidents. Vice president of research, Jessica Cicchio stated that these systems save lives. Her statistical analysis prove that warning systems work.
Incidents of single-vehicle accidents, sideswiping and head-on collisions were 11% lower with vehicles equipped with these safety features. Plus, fewer injuries were incurred or much less severe. According to Cicchino, if all vehicles were equipped with lane departure warnings or a forward collision warning, at least 55,000 injuries per year could be prevented.
Crash avoidance technology can prevent some of the deadliest accidents on the road because drivers have time to react to potential danger.
Most crash avoidance technologies are autonomous, however some do rely on the driver to take action. The system is useless if the driver ignores the warning or worse, disconnects the system. Some drivers are annoyed by the constant monitoring and corrective actions of the safety features and disconnect the system altogether. This is never a good idea.
Drivers need to accept and understand the technologies, and react to the information the system provides. However, multiple warnings and alarms going off at the same time could be confusing or distracting for some drivers. This can certainly cause a serious accident.
In addition to challenges faced by the driver, the technology itself can have limitations. For example, interference caused by weather. Lane departure warning systems need to be able to register lane markings. If the road isn't clearly marked or is covered with ice or snow, this can be a huge problem.
Sensors may also be unreliable during rain storms, especially at night. Most crash avoidance technologies struggle to detect environmental factors in low light or inclement weather, which is exactly when drivers need their help the most.
Some technologies only kick in at certain speeds and others need to be manually turned on by the driver. Any feature that relies on GPS coordinates is limited by the accuracy and availability of the digital maps.
New technologies continue to be introduced and implemented. In the near future we will see more advances in artificial intelligent systems and autonomous reactions. This will eventually lead to an increase in self-driving cars. These systems are still in their infancy stage, but every day more bugs are getting worked out.
There’s no doubt that these new technologies, especially the self-driving vehicles will lead to changes in several industries. The insurance industry may see the biggest changes of all. Traditionally, auto insurance has been based on the driver and the driver's record. How will the company assess the driving record of a self-driving car? Only time will tell how auto insurance companies will adjust as these technologies advance.