The UK is a nation of drivers. Car registrations remained strong even despite the pandemic and continue to be experiencing double-digit growth rates, according to statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Despite the number of cars on the roads increasing steadily over the decades though, the number of accidents on the roads has actually gone down, with Department for Transport figures showing deaths dropped by 14% between 2019 and 2020.
These great figures are due to continual improvements in automobile safety such as seatbelts and crumple zones, but what are carmakers doing to boost these gains even further in the coming decades?
An innovation that has been in cars since at least 2001, lane monitoring systems (also called lane departure warning systems) constantly monitor the roadway and lane markings, alerting the driver if they stray out of the lane they are currently occupying.
Lane monitoring systems can play sounds, cause the steering wheel to vibrate, or display a warning on the dashboard to alert the driver. What’s more, very modern approaches also take control of the vehicle’s steering if the dangerous manoeuvre is not rectified by the driver. This can be particularly useful if the driver has fallen asleep, is distracted, or has made a steering error.
Occupant safety monitoring (OcSM)
While airbags save countless lives in the roads each year, airbag systems aren’t perfect, and the effectiveness of airbags can be compromised if passengers are sat in non-standard positions the airbags were not designed for. Occupant safety monitoring (OcSM) systems try and correct these issues by constantly monitoring the positions of passengers’ heads and shoulders. This information is constantly fed into the OcSM system, which adapts the planned release of the airbag to suit passenger location.
For instance, if the driver’s seat has been pulled close to the steering wheel and they have shifted forward in their seat, the OcSM will speed up the deployment of the airbag accordingly, so as to prevent the driver from hitting the steering wheel before the airbag is deployed.
Cars such as the new Vauxhall Corsa now come with Bi-xenon cornering headlights. These allow drivers to see more of the road as they corner, offering much-improved night-time visibility when exiting junctions and cornering sharp bends – as well as alerting oncoming traffic to the vehicle’s presence.
Developed by Continental, the transparent hood concept allows the driver to view the road surface beneath the frontal portion of their car thanks to four cameras and a dashboard display. This enables drivers to navigate unforgiving terrain, avoid potholes and gaps in the road surface, and park with even more accuracy than ever before.
Fatigue detection technology
Similar to lane monitoring, fatigue detection technology goes further in discerning whether the driver is tired and at risk of falling asleep at the wheel. The technology, found in a range of vehicles including Audi, BMW, Ford, and Nissan cars, monitors the movement of the steering wheel, the vehicle’s lane positioning, and the face of the driver. Some systems even monitor brain activity and heart rate.
Blind spot sensors
Blind spot sensors augment the vehicle’s mirrors, displaying a warning to the driver when another vehicle is about to be passed by another motorist. This stops drivers from mistakenly pulling out into the road alongside overtaking traffic, making blind spot sensors a great safety tool for motorway driving.