The automotive industry is continuously evolving as new technologies are developed to help better the driving experience. Whilst our roads aren’t totally safe, the industry are working on it. There were 182,560 casualties of all severities on the road, in the year ending September 2016, down by 4% from the previous year – the overall casualty rate per vehicle mile also decreased by 5% over the same period.
Road traffic accidents are still very much an issue for drivers, but could some of the latest technology on our roads and in our cars, be the first step in making our roads a safer place to drive? Here, VW service, MOT and repairs provider, Inchcape Volkswagen, take a look at how technology is changing the driving experience, and why it’s helping to make our roads a safe place.
It is against the law to use a mobile device when driving, and on March 1st 2017, the Government doubled the penalty for getting caught to six points on your driving licence and a £200 fine – however, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take calls, receive text messages and stay connected with the world. In-car connectivity, such as Volkswagen’s Car-Net, has made it possible to stay connected without breaking the law through ‘hands-free’ technology.
The technology is designed to keep drivers’ hands off their mobile device when driving, and rely on the in-car system to make and receive your calls, read text messages to you, and even read news updates. With in-car connectivity you can stay connected with the digital world, whilst keeping your eye on the road, which is key for driving safely. Car-Net also offers a security and service system, which makes emergency SOS calls when they are needed – an additional peace of mind, to send out a call for help if you are unable to.
According to the RAC Foundation’s director, Steve Gooding, “Driving is a safety-critical activity that requires our full attention. Hands need to be on the wheel and eyes looking out of the windscreen, not down at the phone screen.”
25% of road congestion on UK roads causes a road traffic accident – with an estimated £2 billion bill each year. To tackle congestion, Highways England is making our UK motorways ‘smart’. The idea of a smart motorway uses technology to manage traffic on motorways at busy times. Some motorways across the UK already use the technology, including along stretches of the M4, M5, M25 and M42 and have proven beneficial for changing the speed limit to smooth traffic flow, activate warning signs for traffic or accidents ahead, and close lanes to clear a route for emergency vehicles.
Plans are in place to introduce many more smart motorways across the country as those which are currently in place have proven to make our roads safer – journey reliability has already improved by 22% and personal injury traffic accidents have reduced by more than half.
Self-driving technologies are nothing new to the automotive industry. Whilst driverless cars are clearly on the horizon, many cars have plenty of self-driving features to suggest that the horizon is closer than we think – whilst ensuring the safety of our roads.
Cruise control is an in-car system for motorway and long-journey driving. The technology allows you to set a speed limit on your vehicle so that the system can automatically control the speed on your vehicle by taking over throttle and maintaining a steady speed as set by you. This helps drivers to maintain a safe speed when driving on long journeys on motorways and dual carriageways.
Active parking assist is another ‘self-driving’ technology that is already available in the cars on our roads today. Some might argue that the technology transforms your vehicle temporarily into an autonomous vehicle whilst you park your car. When the system is engaged, your car will happily take care of parallel parking for you. When engaged, the system identifies a suitable parking space, before safely steering your vehicle into the parking space. All you do is control the accelerator and the brakes – your car takes care of the steering wheel.
Lane departure warning, also known as the lane-keeping system, is another step closer to autonomous vehicles. This technology is a big safety feature on your vehicle. When driving on motorways and dual carriageways it is vital that you stay safely in your lane, unless indicating to overtake or switch lanes. This system alerts you with a vibration on the steering wheel if your vehicle is unintentionally edging out of its lane – in some cases if you are too slow to react, the system will automatically provide steering torque to guide you back into the lane.
How far away are self-driving cars?
With ‘self-driving’ technology slowly but surely entering our vehicles, it is clear that autonomous vehicles will become a reality in the future – and it could be sooner than we think. In fact, it could already be here. Google has already logged more than 200,000 miles in a fleet of self-driving cars retrofitted with sensors. Could our trusted auto manufacturers be next to develop an autonomous car? If we can rely on technology in the future to get us from A to B, our roads could become a safer place, eliminating human error and distractions.