Five new technologies improving fleet safety
Exciting new model launches are introducing cutting edge advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) to company cars, helping drivers stay safer on the road. Thatcham Research, which conducts automotive safety tests on behalf of vehicle manufacturers and the British insurance industry, has selected five state-of-the-art technologies which have the potential to transform the safety of vehicles and drivers.
1. Android Automotive OS
Distracted driving is a rising cause of road accidents, as drivers take their eyes off the road to set their satnav, change the radio station or their playlist, or simply adjust the temperature via a touchscreen.
Voice activated controls appeared to hold the answer to this problem, but few worked reliably until the launch of the trailblazing Google Assistant.
Matthew Avery, director of research, Thatcham Research, said: “The immediate safety benefit of voice control systems is that they allow the driver to keep their eyes on the road. However, the current systems that people are most familiar with are seldom user-friendly and are frankly awkward to use. When the voice control fails to recognise what the driver is saying, the safety benefits are lost. The driver should only have to say something once and that’s why an established player like Android, delivering a system at the peak of the development curve, is optimal. Clarity and user interface commonality across vehicles are also fundamental – engendering familiarity and instant recognition with icons – allowing Android Automotive to bring safety benefits across different car makes. This is the first example of a genuinely usable system.”
2. Ford’s Blind Spot Assist
The new Lane-Keeping System with Blind Spot Assist, which first appeared in the new Ford Kuga SUV last year, not only monitors a driver’s blind spot for vehicles approaching from behind, but also has the power to apply a gentle counter-steering force to warn the driver and discourage a lane change manoeuvre if it detects a potential crash.
“Instead of having a warning, you now have a solid form of intervention which is helpful,” said Avery. “It’s much better for the car to intervene on behalf of the driver when there’s a potentially dangerous situation because incidents tend to manifest themselves so quickly.”
3. Kia’s Blind Spot View Monitor
Kia has taken a different approach to Blind Spot Assist, developing an ADAS that eliminates a driver’s left- and right-side blind spots. Whenever a driver indicates to change lane and there’s a vehicle hidden in their blind spot, high-resolution video feeds from wide-angle cameras in the door mirrors are displayed on the dashboard to alert the driver. The system is already a feature in the Sorento.
"The key to this tech is it draws the driver's attention to the blind spot by changing the dashboard display,” said Avery. “Most blind spot systems are designed to draw attention to the area that needs the focus – the blind spot – via lights or indicators on the mirror. But when something changes on the dashboard in front of the driver, they immediately know what's going on. In that sense, this is a powerful system. It alerts the driver to something in their blind spot in a very direct way."
4. Tesla’s over-the-air updates
Historically, a car’s safety technology never improves from the moment it leaves the factory. Over-the-air updates, however, fundamentally change this flaw by allowing car manufacturers to improve safety features and technology throughout the life of a vehicle. Tesla is using wireless technology to send new features to its cars, boosting their functionality, performance and safety. Last year, for example, the electric car maker introduced vision-based speed assist capability, dash-cam viewer improvements, and traffic light warnings to cars that were already on the road.
According to Avery, over-the-air updates are “a benchmark innovation.” He added that: “Tesla was the first to introduce over-the-air updates and it’s proven to be a real game changer. It means a Tesla can be upgraded as its sitting on a driveway. This allows the brand to not only offer new functionality to the consumer, but it can also fix things ‘on the fly’. As a result, the vehicle fleet is, to some degree, state-of-the-art over its lifetime which is a phenomenal advantage, especially when it comes to the performance of its back-up safety systems.Tesla wasn’t the strongest in terms of its Advanced Driver Assistance Systems previously, but now it’s the benchmark.”
5. Volvo’s Advanced Interior Air Cleaner
Driver health and safety is not all about collision avoidance. Traffic air pollution still represents a serious health threat to drivers, particularly those operating in congested urban areas where diesel particulates are a notable problem. Volvo’s solution is an air purification system that passes incoming air through an ioniser that pre-charges the microscopic particles which then stick to a fibre-based filter that carries an opposite charge. This ensures the cabin is full of clean, healthy air.
“This is the first time a car has had an ioniser inside its air filtration system,” said Avery. “Removing harmful particulates makes the cabin air cleaner – which is particularly relevant today with increased levels of pollution – and that’s good news for people’s health and their attentiveness behind the wheel.”