We look at some of the new and emerging automotive technologies that will soon be a key feature of the cars we drive.
The car of the future will communicate with the road infrastructure and other road users to warn you about traffic jams or an accident up ahead, allow you to stream music and video material from the internet through your car’s audio-visual system, and make it easy to consult apps from the dashboard that provide information about restaurants, hotels or shopping options on your route.
But as car manufacturers respond to the demands of the ‘connected’ world, the danger is that our eyes will be anywhere but on the road. In other words, will we be driven to distraction?
This was the topic for discussion at the 2013 Automotive Forum organised by the Irish Motoring Writers’ Association (IMWA) and sponsored by Continental Tyres.
The potential for some developments in technology which take over driving and emergency reaction from the driver to actually cause drivers to pay less attention to the road and driving conditions was also discussed.
Speaking at the Forum, Dr. Natasha Merat, Associate Professor at the University of Leeds-based Institute for Transport Studies said, “Without a doubt, technology has contributed hugely to strides in improving road safety over the last number of decades, but we need to be careful that we don’t undo some of that progress by providing a dangerous level of information overload through the addition of a broad range of ‘attention-grabbing’ technologies inside the car”.
Dr. Merat highlighted the results of recent studies that show that once a driver’s primary attention is diverted by another information input, whether that be a mobile phone or a piece of technology within the car, the risk of an accident increases significantly. “We know that younger, inexperienced drivers are particularly prone to distractions while driving, whether they come from in-car distractions or external influences.
And for both experienced and inexperienced drivers, the distraction level can increase significantly once other impairments come into play, for example when a driver is showing any signs of fatigue,” she added.
Pim van der Jagt, head of Research and Development at Ford of Europe, gave delegates a glimpse of some of the new technologies that will soon be key features of the cars we drive. The leading car technology expert said that in the future we can expect our cars to communicate with one another about driving and traffic conditions on the road ahead, and this will have important safety benefits for all. “Using a dedicated short-range communications network, the system will also be able to communicate with similarly equipped vehicles that are out of the driver’s line of sight – for example, if a car suddenly performs an emergency stop procedure around a corner, cars coming behind could be informed in good time so that they can adapt their speed before they arrive at the scene,” he said.
van der Jagt accepts that driver distractions, caused by technology or devices within the car, or external influences, can be a serious risk to road safety, but Ford are committed to improving the driver experience with their research and development programme. “New technology has to contribute to improving the driver experience and consequently, road safety. Any technology that does not pass this test would fall at this first hurdle and would not be developed further for use in cars,” he said.
Both keynote speakers highlighted the need for drivers to be appropriately educated on the technology in their car. In the case of new safety technology like emergency braking systems, the driver of the car should understand how these systems work and in what circumstances will they not intervene.
Gerry Murphy, Chairman of the Irish Motoring Writers Association emphasized the need for personal responsibility when it comes to dealing with advances in automotive technology:
“To answer the question that was our point of departure for the Forum, I think the driver is ultimately responsible for ensuring he or she manages and limits the distraction potential of technology and any other external influences that would divert their attention from the important task at hand”.
30th August, 2013