Collision avoidance: Fact or Fiction?
For more than a decade, automakers and government regulators were talking airbags and self-tensioning seat belts, but now they are singing zero accidents. They are now realizing that the best way to prevent an accident is not to have one.
Without a doubt, collision prevention is a hot topic in the new auto industry in the U.S., Europe and Japan so far. While Japan is laying the foundation for smart highways that eliminate accidents, Sweden and Germany’s “Vision Zero” and “Zero Accidents” auto programs have already began looking into this crash prevention technology.
What part does the U.S. play in this new auto-safety technology?
With a grand vision in mind, the U.S. Department of Transportation is studying a concept that would place electronic intelligence at stop signs, traffic lights and roadsides in 400 or more urban areas and along 33,000 of interstate highways. They are looking at installing lasers, radars, vision systems and ultrasonic sensors in vehicles. This should provide warnings to drivers and in emergencies commandeer the brakes and steering. The system could accomplish such features through the use of GPS (Global Positioning System), which could pinpoint the location of each vehicle near an intersection, and through the use of the transceiver boards, which would enable vehicles to “talk” to each other, as well as to the computer-based roadside systems.
The Smart Highway
To our relief, this new technology does not require infrastructure tear down or construction and will ultimately be available to every vehicle on the road. The key element of the vision is a dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) system, which essentially consists of a radio transceiver board, antenna, and wiring. In reality, the technical components would form a wireless local area network (LAN) with control centers located at the roadside. By knowing the number, location, and speed of participants in the LAN, the linked system could predict potential problems by drawing on a remote software database connected to the roadside units.
Engineers affirm that the system has endless safety mechanisms. For instance, the LAN could alert vehicles at a traffic light that a driver is about to run a red. It could also notify merging highway drivers that they need to speed up or slow down. Furthermore, it could warn lane-changers that someone is driving in their blind spot or it could warn of imminent collisions, approaching emergency vehicles, low bridges, work zones, one-way streets, and even poor road conditions
Electronic Stability Control is an alternative to the smart highway and is commonly found in Germany and in about 35 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S. It includes onboard technologies that enable vehicles to “see” in all directions and make informed decisions about their situations.
Even though advanced sensors and smart highways are the key to zero collisions, we should not forget the old fashioned existing technologies that have favorably reduced 43,000 highway collisions in the U.S. every year. No matter how luxurious or technologically advanced our cars and highways are, please do not forget to wear your seat belts!