Technology is rapidly changing the way we live our lives, and it’s no different when it comes to personal transport. In this article, Wasim Bux, Product Manager at car insurance provider iGO4, explains how technology is set to revolutionise car safety and provides some examples of innovations we are likely to see more of over the next decade.
Whether it’s the introduction of augmented reality, the integration of eye tracking technology, or voice interfacing, the way that we drive will change massively over the next ten years. In much the same way that seatbelts, anti-lock braking systems, and airbags revolutionised car safety in the 20th century, a new wave of modern technology is set to do the same thing this century, bringing huge implications for individuals and insurance companies alike. In this article, I’m going to look at some of the ways that technology could revolutionise car safety.
Augmented reality displays
The transition from the classic dashboard to fully integrated augmented windscreens is already well underway, and it’s likely to bring a huge boom in terms of vehicle safety. This technology has been used in the military for years, specifically in the cockpit of fighter pilots, and has now become affordable enough to make its way into consumer vehicles, bringing in a new wave of smart windscreens. The first use of this technology was seen in 2014 with the Land Rover Discovery Vision concept which introduced smart roof glass and windows that can display safety images and track the driver’s eyes.
Looking even further forward to the future, it’s likely that smart windscreens will be able to detect potential hazards on the road, including looking out for pedestrian safety. This could include warnings about people who the driver doesn’t see, as well as specific warnings for different types of external danger such as snowy, icy, or wet conditions.
Information that isn’t currently available to motorists could also be integrated, such as safe braking distances for vehicles in front, which could change dynamically depending on road conditions. This could be taken a step further, allowing traffic information to be downloaded to your windscreen directly from the cloud, offering suggested route changes and predicting possible problems ahead. Giving motorists as much information as possible without them ever having to take their eyes off the road will radically change car safety.
Eye tracking technology
As touched on above, it is likely that eye tracking technology will be integrated into our augmented windscreens. This technology will be able to monitor alertness levels and warn drivers of hazards that they may have missed. This could be taken a step further with a smart display that always shows information in the area that the driver is looking. This would have a profound effect on the way that collisions are judged by insurance companies, with crash recorder systems that will be able to determine who is at blame for an accident.
Car accidents caused by drivers failing to look properly are one of the most common, especially among young or new drivers, and this technology should reduce these kinds of accidents. The other major cause of accidents that this tech would help avoid is falling asleep at the wheel. According to an AA survey, a staggering one in eight people admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel. Eye tracking technology would allow the vehicle to either safely slow down and pull off the road or send out a loud alarm to wake up the driver, drastically reducing the injuries and fatalities associated with these accidents.
Touch and talk technology
Touch screen technology has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade and is becoming something that is almost expected by consumers. Voice control has seen slower adoption, but also seems to be becoming increasingly popular. Though touch technology is more prevalent in other areas of life such as phones and tablets, it doesn’t seem practical for cars, as anything that takes the driver’s hands away from the main controls is potentially hazardous.
Instead, it is likely to be our voices that we use to control our smart vehicles as it is far less disruptive and much safer. That said, the technology must be implemented in a way that doesn’t distract drivers. We already use our voices to control technology, but often we still must physically look at our screens to read and understand prompts. If these can be projected onto the windscreen, it will be possible to ensure that eyes are never taken off the road. Another potential method of interaction is through gestures, something which Toyota and Microsoft are already working on, although this technology is in its infancy.
I have barely scratched the surface of the huge advances in technology that can and are being applied to vehicles. As these technologies become cheaper and more reliable, it’s only a matter of time before they become as common and thoughtless as the seatbelt, anti-lock braking systems, and airbags of our current cars.