The technologies applied to automobiles these days serve several purposes and are not merely restricted to performance enhancement and comfort. Automakers are looking to make cars more accessible and user friendly for older drivers, in a bid to keep them safe on their commutes. Park and hill assist as well as crash avoidance systems all seek to make driving more secure. This use of intelligent technology is witnessing a rise as older drivers become more determined to take control and not let age get them down.
Difference it makes: Mobile apps abound in the market, helping drivers make better decisions by gathering information about their surroundings and other vehicles. But in-vehicle systems can do so much more by enabling a car to automatically report accidents as well as gather data about roads and help drivers to plan their routes. They can provide information about less congested areas and even inform them, if certain features should be switched off in the car to conserve energy. In-vehicle technology is applied by many automakers, some devised by themselves and others by independent companies.
Difference it makes: City driving may be frustrating what with the constant starts and stops, but cruising on a highway can be risky for older drivers owing to speeding trucks and other vehicles. Cadillac has developed an existing technology to make it more efficient: SelfDriving Technology. The American marque has called its latest development ‘Super Cruise’, a semi-autonomous technology that helps older drivers park in narrow spaces and navigate around curves. It employs functions like intelligent brake assist, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, automatic collision preparation and forward collision alert.
Difference it makes: In 2011, Japanese automaker, Toyota, had announced a list of safety technology for older drivers to be fitted on its Prius and Camry vehicles. Instead of merely focusing on the driver, the company has decided to take pedestrians into consideration after finding that they account for more fatalities compared to vehicle occupants. The safety tech features include collision-avoidance assist that applies the brakes, if a driver does not detect a collision; adaptive driving beam that shields headlights from oncoming road users; pop-up hoods and emergency response technology.
Difference it makes: Britain’s Newcastle University is working on developing what it calls ‘DriveLAB’, an intelligent system that aids older drivers with the use of navigation tools, intelligent speed adaptations and night vision systems. Aside from picking out the safest route possible, the system also monitors concentration and stress levels, and remembers driving habits with the use of glasses to track eye movements and assess key stress points.
Difference it makes: German automobile manufacturer, BMW, recently developed its ConnectedDrive technology, a high-tech system that seeks to connect drivers with their surroundings and the system itself. A part of ConnectedDrive is the Night Vision, a feature that can recognize objects and pedestrians from 15 to 100 meters away. It projects the image on to a display via a thermal camera to give drivers more reaction time, when commuting at night.
Difference it makes: Using wireless and GPS technologies, American car manufacturer, Ford, has sought to help cars communicate with each other to avoid accidents. The Automatic Braking Intersection Collision Avoidance System uses 360-degree view wireless sensors and GPS to detect the location of other similarly equipped vehicles which can warn users of side impact collisions and automatically brake in the event of a mishap.
Difference it makes: Ford and Japanese luxury marque, Lexus, employ parking guidance systems to help older drivers navigate through narrow spaces. Using sensors, the cars can back up and park themselves without the driver having to touch the steering wheel. Aside from sensors, the systems use cameras and on-board software to help gauge distance and look out for objects before parking.
Difference it makes: Ford’s Active Park Assist feature can be installed on the Focus, Explorer, Lincoln MKT and MKS, Escape and Flex. Like its name states, the system allows drivers to parallel park at the push of a button. Parking sensors on the front and rear guide the car into a parking space with no need to touch the steering wheel.
Difference it makes: Traffic Sign Recognition technology warns drivers on the restrictions that may be effective on certain roads. For instance, when driving along a speed limit zone, the system will warn users to slow down in keeping with regulations. TSR technology is visual-based, meaning that if the traffic signs are hidden by trees, the system could have difficulty interpreting them. However, it can also be developed to compare data with those from digital maps to give an accurate reading.
Difference it makes: Hill Descent Control or HDC is a technology that controls a vehicle, when going downhill. When activated, the system maintains a certain speed without any driver input. If the driver manually speeds up or slows down using the throttle and brake, HDC becomes inactive. Once the driver lets go, the system reactivates and sets the car back to the set speed.