Getting behind the wheel of a car is inherently a risky endeavor, even for the most experienced drivers. Over the years, automobile manufacturers have added a variety of features to their vehicle designs to make driving safer and reduce auto-related accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Here are 5 of the best among them.
Inflatable Seat Belts:
Ford is the first, and so far only, car manufacturer to incorporate inflatable safety belts into its vehicles. Starting this year, the safety belts will be available as optional equipment on Ford Explorer and Ford Fusion models. Inflatable seat belts combine the features of seat belts and air bags, inflating on collision to provide additional protection to rear-seat passengers, who are most frequently young or elderly and more vulnerable to head, neck, and chest injuries.
BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have already incorporated night vision into several of their models. Night vision systems employ technologies like infrared detection to display features of the road ahead that drivers can’t detect with the human eye, no matter how bright their headlights are. BMW recently announced plans to add a system called Dynamic Light Spot, or DLS, as well as animal detection, to their models equipped with night vision. DLS, described by BMW as a “targeted illumination” feature, is designed to help drivers not only see but actually notice pedestrians and obstacles when driving in the dark. It does so by lighting up areas where the car detects the presence of an object that should be avoided.
Parents of teen drivers can breathe a little easier if they own a Ford equipped with the manufacturer’s new MyKey system. MyKey allows parents to reduce their car’s maximum driving speed to 80 mph, as well as limit the maximum volume its stereo system will reach. MyKey can also be programmed to sound a continuous alarm if seat belts are left unfastened. MyKey is currently available on the Ford Escape Hybrid and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, but it’s scheduled to be available on all models eventually. If you’re not quite ready to buy a new car for your teen, there are also driving apps that operate in a similar way.
Starting in 2010, Mercedes-Benz began incorporating the Attention Assist system into its E-class models. Attention Assist is designed to issue warnings when it detects that a driver is overly tired or otherwise impaired to drive. It does so by remembering a driver’s normal behavior on the road and establishing this as a baseline. The system then measures speed, lateral acceleration, steering wheel angle, and pedal use, to detect deviations from the baseline. When a deviation is detected, the system alerts the driver with visual and audible alarms that say it’s time to take a break.
Google has been road-testing its self-driving Priuses and Lexuses, as part of its autonomous-car project, since 2010. Chris Urmson, the project’s director, has argued that Google’s driverless cars are safer than human-driven cars. Humans, according to two recent studies conducted by Google researchers in California and Nevada, accelerate and brake more sharply, and do a poorer job of maintaining a safe distance behind other cars, than Google’s driverless system. The company is currently investigating ways to make its cars available for sale to the public.
While even the most advanced vehicle technologies can’t eliminate the possibility of accidents occurring while driving, they can provide drivers with the tools needed to drive as safely as possible, as well as dramatically reduce the risk of collision-related injuries. Now is a great time to explore newly available options for making your ride safer.