We hear a lot about self-driving vehicles these days, and the truth is that the technology has arrived. From tech giants like Tesla and Google to established titans in the auto industry, a lot of companies have already boasted amazing test runs and sneak peeks. And they’re not all about individual use or effortless driving around town. For instance, Mercedes has revealed an early look at its 2025 “Future Truck” by showing a driver relaxing away from the wheel while the car takes care of a long haul.
There are a few ideas behind self-driving cars. To some extent, they’re simply what’s next, which makes for a wonderful challenge for tech companies and auto companies to attempt to master the concept. Additionally, it’s convenient and cool, as a self-driving car will be an incredible luxury item. But most of all, the idea is to eliminate some of the dangers of the road by removing the possibility of human error.
For now, however, we’re still at least a few years away from the widespread use of vehicles like these. But what’s being done in the meantime to harness technology for the purpose of safer driving? You may be surprised at how many tools there already are in use.
A few years ago, CNBC looked into a number of different traffic and collision sensor technologies that at the time were only available on select luxury cars. Systems like CrossTraffic Alert (which uses radar on fenders to alert cars backing up when a collision is imminent) and Mercedes’s Distronic Plus (which can help a car to keep up with traffic flow and apply the brakes if there’s danger of a frontal collision) effectively shrink the possibility of careless error. With tools like these in place, even a driver who loses concentration can be protected from a situation that would endanger himself and others.
GPS Fleet Tracking Systems
Teenage drivers are often targeted as the people most likely to be distracted or impaired on the road, but truck drivers and shipping professionals are also considered by many to be high-risk drivers. Consider the long hours they have to spend on the road in addition to the deadlines they have to meet. And fortunately, systems have been put in place in recent years to ensure that these drivers are operating as safely as possible. Networkfleet explains how GPS tracking and measuring of vehicle diagnostics can increase the likelihood that these drivers are operating safely. GPS tracking can automatically provide updated routing information to keep drivers informed and on schedule, and sensors measuring their habits (such as noticing hard or sudden stops, or high speeds) can hold drivers accountable.
Phone Suppression Tools
One of the biggest dangers on the road today is drivers who are distracted by their phones. We’ve become so dependent on devices that many of us have a hard time avoiding using them while driving—whether to make phone calls, send messages, or even manage music. And because this is such common behavior, it’s become a primary focus of those developing technologies to keep the roads safe. There are all kinds of tools being made, most of which are designed to offer hands-free communication. There are also those that stop incoming calls and send automated text messages explaining that the driver is busy and will contact the sender later. One product, a “smart wheel” designed to sound an alarm if a hand comes off the steering wheel, was actually invented by young children and featured as a Shark Tank success story!
Alcohol Detection Tools
We’re also seeing new tools developed with an aim toward stopping drunk driving altogether. Tools for alcohol detection have been in place for a very long time, and there are some that responsible drivers can operate on their own in order to determine whether or not they can safely drive. However, according to USA Today, some of the newer tools in this area are being made with the intention of keeping drivers safe without the need to take any proactive steps. Most notable is the idea of a blood alcohol level sensor that would make readings based on the driver’s breath (simply as he sits in the driver’s seat) and presumably stop the car from operating if the readings indicated a dangerous level.
Some believe that in another decade, when self-driving cars are populating the road, we could approach an extraordinarily low number of accidents and related fatalities. But in the meantime, small but significant technological innovations like these are already making roads safer by leaps and bounds.