With self-driving cars looming in the horizon of the automotive industry, one can see the technology world colliding with the future of vehicles. But many of these new automated features are currently available and being utilized around the world. The question is whether this is a positive move for road safety. Let’s look at three currently available vehicle features as an example.
1. Automated Windshield Wipers
When the rain begins to fall, your driving visibility is instantly limited. Drivers reach over and turn their wipers on manually, thus taking their attention off of the road for a split second. This and the idea that some drivers may not turn on the wipers fast enough to keep a good line of sight is what led to the invention of automated windshield wipers.
These work with the use of an optical sensor placed behind the rearview mirror. The sensor sends out a light beam and judges the returning reflection to determine if the windshield is wet or dry. If it detects rain drops, the windshield wipers turn themselves on. Some products are built into the windshield wipers themselves, some available as an add-on sensor feature.
But does this really help? One could argue that keeping a drivers attention on the road is always good. On the other hand, a driver must be able to multi-task to a certain degree to manage driving at all. A driver still needs to be aware of whether wipers should be on or not. An article on In The Nation suggests that this is an unnecessary feature, stating bluntly “If you aren’t able to spot when it’s raining, you probably shouldn’t be driving in the first place” (www.inthenation.com/hype-vs-help-car-safety).
2. Automated Headlights
Just like windshield wipers, your vehicle’s headlights are an important safety component, one that some drivers don’t take full advantage of. Even when it’s not fully dark, headlights should be turned on to battle low visibility conditions such as dusk, rainfall, and snow. This also ensures that other drivers can see you clearly.
Automated headlights address this by monitoring light levels and conditions and turning on when needed. Some use a color sensor to accurately judge weather conditions, and some headlights will turn themselves on when the windshield wipers are activated, as many states require lights to be in use in that circumstance. Automated headlights have been around since the ‘60s and now come standard on several vehicle lines.
Unlike with the automated windshield wipers, it is difficult to find any concerns with this, as long as the headlights are more sensitive to decreasing light conditions than the average driver. A potential issue would be if the driver doesn’t take control at a moment when it really is needed, or the system fails.
3. Automated Brake Systems
Brakes are arguably one of the most important safety features of any vehicle. The hope for automated braking systems is to help prevent avoidable accidents and crashes that can happen easily in even a split second of driver distraction. These don’t prevent the driver from controlling the brakes, but add a back up plan.
This feature has been designed in several different ways, typically with the use of sensors. Some use cameras mounted above the windshield to identify different types of objects and pick up contrast in images. Others use lasers that shoot out a signal and judge distance and speed. Typically, the system will alert the driver of an upcoming obstacle and then begin applying the brakes if the driver doesn’t act accordingly.
It’s important to note that most of the automated brake features are better equipped for slower speeds around 20 miles per hour. The benefit to automated brakes is the extra layer of safety in the event of a distraction. On the other hand, a driver might feel that they don’t have to pay as close of attention, and might be more likely to look away from the road for another task.
Safety on the Road is No Light Matter!
Automated systems such as windshield wipers that sense wetness, headlights that judge light levels, and brakes that monitor the road ahead are all designed with safety as the goal. And Everblades is all about safety – that’s why we offer heated windshield wipers that increase visibility during the toughest driving conditions. But the potential for drivers to take these automated features for granted and over rely on technology could have the opposite effect of the intentions.
What do you think about automated systems? Which ones make your life easier and which are potentially dangerous? Everblades would love to hear from you – find us on Facebook to share your thoughts!