3 Controversial New Car Safety Technologies

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  • Car manufacturers are hard at work, creating new technologies that promote highway safety and provide a better driving experience for vehicle operators. While these innovations are exciting and interesting, there are also numerous concerns.

    Vehicle-to-Vehicle Technology

    Vehicle-to-vehicle technology allows cars to communicate with each other for the purpose of preventing automobile accidents. While the federal government is promoting this automotive technology, others are questioning the whether it will actually increase driver distraction and contribute to the number of crashes on the roadways.

    The data exchanged between vehicles includes speed and roadway position, with data exchange occurring at a rate of 10 times per second. The technology operates automatically, without any necessary driver engagement. It also alerts drivers about:

    • Risky or unsafe road conditions ahead;

    • Whether it's safe to pass another vehicle on a two-lane highway;

    • If the way is clear to make a left turn; and

    • Whether upcoming intersections are clear.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation approved the implementation of vehicle-to-vehicle technology in lightweight vehicles. Since most highway accidents occur between lightweight and heavyweight vehicles, some opponents argue that it is not effective without integration with heavier vehicles.

    The other major concern about this technology is the possibility of driver distraction. As reported by Auto Notebook, the vast amount of information provided to the driver at one time can easily become distracting and counterproductive to the goal. "The information is recorded so frequently that it can provide information overload to a driver and cause a driver to be more tense on the road than necessary."

    Volvo's Built-in Car Seats

    Volvo recently debuted an innovative idea in child safety with the integrated baby seat. The car manufacturer has removed the passenger front seat and replaced it with a swiveling baby seat that faces the rear seat. According to Volvo, the key benefits of the technology include:

    • Easier access to the car seat when placing the baby into it and removing the baby from it;

    • The rear-facing design, which is recommended for babies and children up to the age of three years old to promote safety; and

    • An area under the seat for extra storage of baby items.

    Other experts are not as supportive. An article on Babble.com discusses the cons of the technology. One concerns the placement of the car seat. Most experts advise that a baby seat should be placed in the back seat. This is because the front seat is the main area of impact in a head on collision. Even in a rear-facing seat, their head and spine is closest to the biggest potential point of impact.

    The other major concern is the potential for driver distraction. With the baby in the passenger seat, it is virtually impossible for the driver to feel distracted. This is especially true when there is no adult present in the backseat tending to the baby's needs.

    Self-Driving Vehicles

    Robotic vehicles have been in the news for years, with companies like Google leading the way. These cars are advertised as self-driving, requiring no human operator. As explained on TechnologyReview.com, these cars have driven over 700,000 miles, but a lot more work remains before sales begin.

    As you can imagine, concerns over these cars are vast. The level or preparation required is considered unreasonable by some opponents. The exact route must be preprogrammed and the car is currently not able to handle temporary road conditions that are not included on the installed mapping service. While manufacturers assert that these cars will stop at the detection of an unfamiliar object and not move until there are no additional obstacles detected, there are still questions about how the car will respond in these situations.

    The other major concern is a lack of human control. Future models will not even come with steering wheels installed. The company states that a standby human driver would frustrate the automated process, but concerned citizens say that the inability to take over is a major drawback.

    While these technological advances seek to promote safety on the highway, it is ultimately the responsibility of the driver to operate the vehicle in a safe manner.

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