The idea of fully-automated self-driving cars is a little scary to most people. It’s hard to imagine that a car would be able to make the hundreds of decisions human drivers make as they maneuver their cars to their destinations. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 94 percent of the over 35,000 fatal accidents in 2015 were caused at least in part by a mistake made by the human driver. Current automated technology is already proving to save lives. Learn more about these safety features and how full automation is coming soon, whether we want it or not.
Automated Safety Technology
These days, many cars have automatic safety features that help us so seamlessly, we aren’t even aware it’s there. One example of an early safety feature is anti-lock braking systems (ABS), which were first introduced in the 1970’s and are now standard on all vehicles. This technology prevents wheels from locking up and going into an uncontrolled skid when the driver slams on the brakes. As one of the first examples of car technology that corrects mistakes made by the driver, ABS technology has prevented countless crashes. Newer technology that assists drivers in avoiding accidents include the following:
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC). When a driver turns sharply to avoid a crash or because he did not anticipate a curve in the road, the vehicle can lose traction and the driver can lose control of the car. ESC keeps the vehicle headed in the driver’s intended direction, despite the extreme steering maneuver. This prevents a car from spinning out (changing direction too quickly) or plowing out (changing direction too slowly). ESC has been standard on all new cars since 2011.
- Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB). These systems, which have been available as an option on many cars since 2006, typically warn the driver when impact is imminent and then apply the brakes automatically if the driver fails to do so. NHTSA reports that 30 percent of all police-reported crashes are rear-end collisions that could have been prevented by AEB technology. One key cause of drivers failing to brake in time to avoid a collision is distraction—such as cell phone use—behind the wheel.
- Lane Keeping Support (LKS). Driver distraction and fatigue can also lead to drivers drifting out of their lanes and into oncoming traffic, causing a head-on collision, or side-swiping a car in the next lane. Depending on the technology, the system may simply warn the driver that he is drifting or may actually correct the action to keep the car in its lane. This technology can also prevent deadly rollover accidents which can happen when a car suddenly veers off the road.
These technologies are currently available and have shown to prevent accidents, although it’s impossible to determine just how many close calls have been avoided because of these automated safety features. The next step—a fully automated vehicle—is not far off.
The Path to Self-Driving Cars
Various manufacturers are currently working on self-driving technology. Cars with automated driver assistance have already made their debut on our roads. In an effort to support the development in a way that protects the safety and privacy of drivers, the Department of Transportation announced its strategy for working with NHTSA to oversee the development and release of driverless cars, which includes the following steps:
- A 10-year, $3.9 billion investment in automated safety technologies.
- Regulatory interpretations and exemptions to enable safety innovation.
- Operational guidance for the safe deployment of automated vehicles.
- Working with partners to develop model State policy on automated safety technologies.
- A plan for what new tools and authorities the agency might need to fulfill their safety mission in this new era.
According to manufacturers, we will begin to see driverless cars on the road by 2020.
Keller & Keller Supports Automotive Safety in Indiana
While the car accident attorneys at Keller & Keller encourage all drivers to drive safely and to embrace technology that makes motor vehicle travel safer, we also understand that driverless technologies present new questions of liability when accidents do occur. We will be keeping an eye on these new safety features and encourage you to call us with any questions about crashes that occurred despite or because of automated safety systems. We have offices in Indianapolis, Terre Haute, and Granger to serve clients all over the state of Indiana.