5 Safety Features That Could Be Coming to Your Car Soon

July 9, 2019


Road Safety


Harry Webber

Let’s face it, humans have historically had a pretty poor track record when it comes to predicting the technology of the future.

The imagination of Hollywood films and a shallow understanding of the science behind the technology has contributed to some pretty far out, if not fanciful, projections over the years. That’s not to say we wouldn’t like having breakfast in pill form, before heading to the office in our flying cars, as our robot butler does the chores at home — it’s just a little overly imaginative.

Advancements in technology are rapidly affecting the way we live, however, and there's possibly no industry pushing forward quite like the automotive sector.

Here, we look at five safety features that we expect to see in the cars of the near future (non-flying cars that is!)

1. Augmented reality windshields

With more and more people viewing the world through screens these days, augmented reality has been touted as a major tool for navigating the world of the near future, and the automotive industry is listening.

Drivers of cars fitted with augmented reality windshields (also known as heads-up display) will be able to see suggested directions, upcoming hazards, information on conditions, and more layered over their windshield as they drive.

It’s not dissimilar to the way Google Glasses display material or the way the Pokemon Go app allows gamers to see Pokemon in real-life locations.

Tech juggernaut Apple patented a version of the windshield last year, and an estimated 80 million dollars has been invested by car manufacturers such as Porsche and Hyundai into Swiss company WayRay who have been working on holographic windshields since 2012.

Volkswagen have also incorporated heads-up display in their forthcoming electric ID.3’s (expected in Australia by 2021) which have larger windshields due to space opened up by their combustion-free engine.  

With big business investment and a range of safety benefits, we anticipate augmented reality windshields will be a common car safety feature in the very near future.

2. Driver health monitoring

A sad consequence of Australia’s population ageing is that drivers are more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke whilst on the road.

As you can imagine, the outcome of such incidents are often dire for both the driver and other motorists. Thankfully technology that will help to remedy this will soon be a standard feature of many cars.

Using sensitive electrodes in specially designed seat that monitors a driver’s heart rate through their clothing, as well as sensors that pick up slumping, cars will be able to detect dangerous irregularities in the driver's health.

Cars fitted with smart driving technology and wireless connectivity will then be able to pull over safely and request an ambulance to come to the drivers pinpointed location. US car manufacturers, Ford, are leading the charge in this field and have stated that production of cars with driver health monitoring will begin after 2020.

3. Vehicle to vehicle communication

Communication is a key part of being on the road, and we’re not just talking about flipping the bird to the revved-up goose who cut you off.

V2V communication uses a mesh wireless network, meaning cars, traffic lights can send, receive, and transmit signals between each other. The data communicated will let the “community” of nearby motorists (roughly 300 metres) know your speed, location, and direction of travel, as well as any potential issues with braking and loss of stability.

Cars can then notify you about any developing hazards around and (when combined with automatic emergency braking), can take over the car to avoid said hazards.

It has been estimated that around 60% of new vehicles in the US will be capable of V2V communication by 2023, and you’d have to expect that in a globalised market and with the obvious benefits to road user safety, Australia won’t be very far behind.

4. External airbags

OK, so we all are aware of the function of airbags: inflating after a driver has crashed into something to provide a soft cushion and prevent forceful contact with the car’s dashboard or wheel. External airbags, however, aim to avert cars from coming into forceful contact with an upcoming hazard or vehicle to begin with.

After being alerted by sensors of an upcoming collision, they inflate in under 100 milliseconds to soften and spread the force of the impact.

German auto supplier, ZF Friedrichshafen AG, who manufacture external airbags, claimed that their product reduces intrusions into the passenger cabin by 30 up to percent, and reduces injury levels by 20 to 30 percent, which is pretty incredible. And, if the numbers add up, there’s no reason we won’t be the recipients of these inflatable German car cushions sooner rather than later.

5. Driver override systems

With the advancement of sensors and their ability to interpret the surrounding landscape, it seems more and more likely that humans will be sidelined in favour of car’s inbuilt computer systems in moments of crisis.

Whilst many cars already have brake override systems that assist motorists in stopping when approaching a hazard and wide use of self-driving cars is just over the horizon, driver override systems will be able to break even when you have your foot down on the accelerator — essentially taking control of the vehicle as you drive.

As scary as that may sound (it’s like some sort of ghost entering the car and driving right?!), this technology is said to be a huge game changer, in terms of reducing accidents on the road, and so understandably, it’s expected to be readily available next year.

Harry Webber

Harry is a Sydney-based blogger and writer for Smith's Lawyers. He writes about a range of topics including workers rights and road safety.