South Africa has a pretty rotten track record when it comes to road safety. The World Health Organisation recently ranked South Africa 159th in the world when it comes to road safety out of 175 countries surveyed. But the good news is that lots of tech features are coming our way that will make our cars safer than ever before.
In fact, five new features – speed-limiting technology, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors, augmented reality windshields, driver monitoring cameras and active health monitoring, are set to transform the way we drive in the future.
- New tech to govern your speed
New speed-limiting technology has been introduced on all new Volvos (the speed is limited to 180km/h). While this has proven to be controversial since it was announced, the company insists that it is necessary, because a speed cap helps people reflect and realise that speeding is dangerous, while also providing extra peace of mind and supporting better driver behaviour.
- Autonomous driving
Experts agree that autonomous drive has the potential to be one of the most lifesaving technologies in history if introduced responsibly and safely. This tech will be introduced thanks to the incorporation of LiDAR sensors produced by tech firms such as Luminar. Volvo has partnered with this team of LiDAR experts and these sensors, which enable cars to ‘see’, will be integrated into the roof of its next-generation platform SPA2 vehicles. They will be hardware-ready for autonomous drive from production start in 2022.
- Augmented reality windscreens
While windscreens have long been used to display speed and other basic information in heads-up displays, augmented reality windscreens are set to take driving and road safety to the next level. And it’s not just car companies that are exploring this area. In 2019, Apple filed a patent for an augmented reality windscreen that will make FaceTime chats possible. Apple’s windscreen will also be able to detect and alleviate driver stress.
- Sensors to monitor distracted and intoxicated driving
Distracted and intoxicated driving are major road safety challenges. The road safety experts at Volvo believe that both should be addressed via in-car cameras and other sensors that monitor the driver. These cameras keep track of the driver’s visual behaviour (eye movements and control, pupil reactions, scanning behaviours), reaction times and other driving behaviours. The car will intervene when a clearly intoxicated or inattentive driver does not respond to warning signals. The cars responses are on the various levels, the last being pulling it over to stop on the side of the road.
- Active health monitoring
An Australian study found that medical conditions are the main factor in 13% of casualty crashes and they account for 23% of all hospital admission and fatal crash outcomes. Active health monitoring will be able to detect if someone is having a heart attack, or if the driver is suffering from high blood pressure. In future, if your car realises that you’re about to have a heart attack, it will pull to the side of the road and even call for help.
The single most important feature of any car, barring those that are autonomous, will still remain the driver. He or she can still represent the difference between life and death. But, with these five new tech features, all drivers, both good and bad, will stand a far better chance of reaching their destinations safely.
By Nikki Chennels