Looking into the future of motor vehicle safety tech

It wasn’t long ago that car safety features focused exclusively on protecting the driver and occupants who were inside the vehicle. Today’s safety technology goes further by using suites of cameras, radar, sensors and computer processors to prevent motor vehicle crashes from happening in the first place. The safety technology of 2021 protects no only the driver and occupants inside the vehicle but also protects occupants of other vehicles, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists.

Features such as blind-spot warning, automatic emergency braking (AEB), forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control and lane maintenance assist are already populating new vehicles offered by Chattanooga car dealerships and preventing roadway accidents. However, a new generation of safety tech – propelled by more powerful processors and more observant sensors – is on the way.

“Cars are benefiting from the explosion in computer processing power, and automakers are using that technology to make cars smarter and safer,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Report’s Auto Test Center.

Some of the emerging vehicle safety technologies include the following:

Enhanced Reality

Augmented reality is a blend of what humans and computers see. The augmented reality system projects a head-up three-dimensional holographic animation to show the driver exactly where to turn or to highlight the presence ahead of a pedestrian or stopped vehicle.

Augmented reality tech is already included in some vehicles sold in Europe. It should be available in the U.S. soon.

Ending ‘dooring’

‘Dooring’ occurs when a driver or passenger opens the door of a parked vehicle directly in front of a bicyclist. The bicyclist then collides with the door – or veers around the door where they can be struck by a passing vehicle.

Some current Audi, Hyundai, Genesis, Mercedes and Kia vehicles include sensors that detect bicycles coming from behind and alerts to warn occupants against opening doors – or they prevent the doors from opening until the bicyclist has passed.

Smarter light

Adaptive driving beam headlights (also called smart headlights) minimize glare for both the driver and oncoming drivers. They can also highlight pedestrians and cyclists or even project virtual lanes to help drivers navigate roads obscured by snow or rain.

Smart headlights are already available elsewhere but await federal government approval that will make them available in the U.S.

Protecting pedestrians

Thermal cameras can detect the presence of pedestrians ahead even when visibility is poor because of darkness or adverse weather conditions. Existing sensing systems and human eyes both struggle to see pedestrians in low light and darkness. Because thermal cameras perceive people as heat, they will be better at detecting people on foot and on bicycles in poor visibility conditions.

Consumer Reports says infrared heat tech is evolving quickly and that it could be ready for 2025 models.

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