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Safety technology in development

Vehicles have come a long way since the advent of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and the lap-and-shoulder seatbelt in the late 1950s. Technological innovation is a feature of modern society, and significant progress is evident in the evolution of safer vehicles. There have been at least two very noteworthy advancements in vehicle technology that have recently begun changing the way we think about the future of driving.

First, the progression towards drive-by-wire vehicles and away from purely mechanical systems has allowed for the advanced connection of different parts of the vehicle. This means, for example, that vehicles can benefit from smart computer technology when determining what to do if the gas and brake pedals are pushed down at the same time. Modern vehicles are controlled by a fully integrated electronic system, with a device called an electronic control unit (ECU) at the center. Prior to the invention of ECUs, vehicles relied mostly on mechanical or hydraulic controls, which complicated the installation of additional features and limited the ways that different parts of the vehicle could be connected. The introduction of computer-programmable ECUs marked a huge increase in the variations of different safety features that could be easily installed on new vehicles.

Second and even more recently, many modern vehicles are now fitted with various technological devices that allow the vehicle to monitor the road around it. Using radar, lasers, or a camera and image processor, information regarding lane position, distances between vehicles, and even objects or people at the side of the road is compiled and assembled to form a picture of what is going on around the vehicle. Thus, vehicles are able to “park themselves”, warn drivers if there is something in their blind spot, or automatically adapt the vehicle’s cruising speed to cope with major slowdowns in traffic.

It is still too early to tell what these advancements in vehicle safety mean for drivers. There is a lot of buzz about connected vehicle technology, which combines the advanced computer processing inherent to drive-by-wire functioning with the ability to scan the roadway.  And while the futuristic picture of driver-less cars may still be only a distant reality, drivers can enjoy enhanced safety benefits from recent technological leaps in vehicle safety.