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Focus on Safety Improvements by Automakers/Self-Driving Cars, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Today, advanced technologies are having a dramatic impact on vehicle safety records.  Adaptive cruise control adjusts a car's speed relative to the speed of the vehicles nearby.  Electronic stability control adjusts pressure on individual brakes if a sensor picks up wheel, steering wheel or brake data that suggests a loss of control.  Collision sensors read tire, steering wheel and brake data and make adjustments such as closing sunroofs or adjusting seats to increase safety factors in the moments before a crash.  Lane-drift systems utilize a rear-view mirror camera to detect unusual movement beyond the boundaries of the current lane.  A warning sounds or the driver’s seat vibrates to alert the driver.  Drowsiness detection systems monitor lane drifting and also scan drivers’ faces and glance patterns.  Pedestrian automatic emergency braking activates when drivers do not react to nearby pedestrians (or bicycles).  All of these options are currently available on many luxury vehicles, and on a growing number of mid-priced vehicles.
An immense issue is caused by texting on cellphones while driving.  Studies show that it is common for 18 to 24-year-olds to send more than 100 texts per day.  However, the combination of driving and texting is deadly.  Most U.S. states have passed laws prohibiting texting while driving.  However, enforcement of such laws is nearly impossible, short of clear evidence that someone caused an accident while texting.  New applications are emerging that limit a cellphone or digital device’s ability to receive or send calls and messages while a vehicle is moving, but they are selling slowly and are utilized at the cellphone owner’s option.  
Mercedes-Benz engineered a vehicle that uses a stereo camera, radar and an infrared camera to follow nearby vehicles and objects on the road ahead.  When potential problems are detected, the car’s computers take control of the brakes, acceleration and steering from the driver.  BMW has similar technology.  GM has a similar concept, calling it a “super-cruise” system that takes temporary control of the vehicle when dangers are sensed.
Adaptive cruise control is in use in many high-end vehicles.  For example, Mercedes’ Pre-Safe system uses its radar to scan for distances to nearby vehicles and, when a collision seems imminent, primes the braking system, tightens the seat belts and adjusts the car seats to optimum protection positions.  Mercedes-Benz claims the system can reduce rear collisions by 75%.  Another example of adaptive cruise control is the Acura collision-mitigation braking system.  When a driver approaches another vehicle too quickly, a warning light flashes on the dashboard, followed by a tightening of the driver’s seat belt and ultimately the braking system is engaged (if the driver has yet to put on the brakes).  Similar systems are available from Volvo, which emit loud beeps and flash red lights on the dashboard; and from Infiniti, where a system beeps and pushes back on the accelerator.  In a recent study, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that forward collision warning/avoidance technology may be able to prevent or mitigate up to 2.3 million police-reported crashes in the U.S. each year.
A similar technology is a sensor that alerts drivers when they drift out of a traffic lane.  Ford’s Lane-Keeping System is an example, which utilizes a camera to scan lane markings on both sides of a vehicle.  The system has three modes:  Lane-Keeping Aid, which supplies steering torque to direct drivers back to the center of the lane; Lane-Keeping Alert, which warns drivers through steering wheel vibrations similar to driving over a rumble strip; and Driver Alert, which communicates warnings through the vehicle’s message center.  Many other manufacturers, including Jeep and Porsche, offer this kind of technology.


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