New Technology Designed to Prevent Car Crashes (or Increase Profits?)

New Technology Designed to Prevent Car Crashes (or Increase Profits?)

Last year, there were more fatal traffic accidents in the State of Illinois than there had been since 2008. The year 2015 will be remembered as the deadliest year for Illinois roads in quite some time. Why the jump in traffic deaths?

Illinois law enforcement point to four things as being the main contributors to all these tragedies:

1. Speeding;
2. Failure to Wear Safety Belts;
3. Impaired Driving (Driving While Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol); and
4. Distracted Driving.

Which means that while the police are being even more vigilant about trying to prevent drunk driving and distracted driving accidents, and law makers are at work to pass more legislation designed to protect people from serious car accidents and traffic deaths, the technology industry is seeing an opportunity here to introduce new products designed to increase traffic safety.

Technological Advances for Traffic Safety

Whether or not these efforts will work in the real world remains to be seen. For some, these are a welcome addition in the fight against car crashes and traffic fatalities; for others, there are some profit-making schemes being developed that work to endanger privacy rights and personal freedoms.

And there are questions about how they may impact liability and cause issues in accident claims and lawsuits seeking justice for severe personal injuries and wrongful deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents. Will some of these gadgets be used by insurance carriers to try and deny coverage and responsibility in future accidents? Another issue: what if the device fails?

Here are a few of the new technological advances we’ll be seeing on the roads of Indiana and Illinois very soon (if they aren’t here already):

1. Driverless Cars and Semi Trucks

Last spring, a self-driving semi truck moved down an American roadway for the first time. In May 2015, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck was debuted by Daimier Trucks North America. Right now, these big rigs still need a driver for certain things — like exiting a highway, for instance. However, automation behind the wheel of 18-wheelers is expected to be a part of our future every soon. Fully autonomous big rig semi trucks (called “Level 4” trucks) already have prototypes built and they are being promoted as a safe way for these heavy machines to move through traffic as well as being better able to save money on fuel costs while moving cargo.

The self-driving, or autonomous, car is also being introduced in the American marketplace. Recently, General Motors and Lyft announced their partnership in building a national service that will provide self-driving cars in cities across the country. Google has also been a pioneer in the driverless car market, working toward its own driverless car products since 2010. And all these companies are touting their autonomous, self-driving vehicles as being so much safer for Americans on the road than vehicles driven by humans.

2. Smart Car Seat: Monitoring the Driver

A new product has been developed by NASA engineers in tandem with researchers at Ohio State University and Stanford University, called the “Active Wellness Smart Car Seat.” What this gizmo does is track the driver’s physical and mental state. Both brain and body.

Things like the driver’s heart rate, his respiration rate, and other biometrics are monitored by the smart car seat. Then, the data is used to determine the amount of stress the driver is experiencing.

If the Smart Car Seat determines that the driver is feeling a high state of stress, then it takes action. It may heat up the seat, or cool it down; there’s even the ability of the Smart Car Seat to give you a massage to help relax you while you’re seated there.

It’s still in the works, but it’s projected to be on the market in the next 24 months or so.

3. Rear Collision Avoidance Devices

There are several products already being sold that are designed to protect drivers from hitting someone in their blind spot behind their vehicle. These are considered “after-market products” that anyone can buy and add to their vehicles. Newer models come with real collision avoidance devices being offered as part of their car maker’s packages.

The products include devices like Echomaster, Ackton, and VisorView. (There are several others, as well.) Each of these rear collision avoidance products has its own features, but generally they all work the same way: they act to give the driver a full awareness of what’s happening behind them before they begin driving in reverse, out of a driveway or parking space. Some have rear-view cameras, some have sensing devices, some have mirrors (e.g., ScopeOut).

Federal Law Mandating Some of These Driver Safety Devices

The FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act) requires two things to be implemented that advance new technologies dealing with motor vehicles. Under the new federal law, (1) motor vehicles on American roads will soon have to have new kinds of tires, and (2) hidden inside the vehicles will be “black boxes” similar to those we’ve seen used for decades on airplanes.

4. Event Data Recorders

Event Data Recorders (EDRs) are not new technology — these are the same “black boxes” that the airlines have been using for decades. Any time there is a plane crash, we hear the media commentators talking about the search for the “black box,” which will provide data to explain why the crash happened. That same “black box,” or EDR, is now being required as technology to be placed on American motor vehicles.

The EDR works by gathering data off of the car’s computer. It does this continually. When there is a crash, that data is protected by the EDR and stored. It may be stored just seconds before the full impact of the crash occurs.

The new EDR systems for American motor vehicles will include data like speed the car was being driven at the time of impact; if the brakes had been deployed; if the driver was wearing a seat belt; if the passengers were wearing safety belts; if the air bags expanded; and more.

Under the new federal law, the police and state authorities can get this EDR data from your car without your agreement. Additionally, if there is an injury lawsuit, the insurance company can request to see the EDR results as part of their discovery process and building their defense argument.

5. Resistance Tires

The FAST Act has also mandated the use of “low-rolling-resistance tires” to be used on all American motor vehicles. Tires are often the cause of motor vehicle accidents, particularly those at high rates of speed.

Under the new federal law, all tire companies who are selling tires for use on U.S. roads will have to make their tires with minimum traction standards to help drivers keep a firm grip on wet roads. Not all tires are under this requirement, however. Certain high-performance tires are exempt, for instance. So are tires that are under 12 inches in diameter.

Technological advances are great, and we welcome great minds developing a better mouse trap. The question remains, however, if these products will really serve the people driving on Indiana and Illinois roads — or will they be in as much danger, if not more, because of the devices? Computers fail just like people do. What will happen then, and how will we find justice for those victims?

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