Toyota has completed construction on a new facility designed specifically to test a new wave in automobile safety: cars that communicate with one another, and with the road. The systems being tested are intended to help reduce car accidents caused by driver error by giving drivers warnings about an impending collision or even by taking action to avoid an accident on their own. Among the scenarios being tested are warnings given about pedestrians in the roadway, red light warnings for a driver approaching too quickly, and warnings about cars approaching at intersections.
Such devices fall under the heading of pre-crash safety technology and may make their appearance in many vehicles sooner, rather than later. While Google works to perfect driverless vehicles, major automakers are working to save drivers from themselves. Toyota is testing systems that help drivers push the brakes harder in order to avoid accidents, cars that tell you when a vehicle is in your blind spot, and cars that will stop automatically, even when the driver hits the gas pedal instead of the brake by accident.
As with many new safety devices, the smart-car and enhanced sensory devices will likely appear on luxury models first. At this point, much of the technology being tested is too expensive to be placed in an economy model. As in the past, the successful devices will likely go from high-tech and expensive to common-place and affordable over time. Anti-lock brakes and air bags were once high-end selling points and appear in virtually every car manufactured.
Technology has made transportation much safer over the years. While drivers may someday be made irrelevant, for now it is still important to drive carefully and pay attention to the road. The accident-free vehicle has not been invented yet.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, "Toyota tests cars that communicate with each other," 12 November 2012