We tend to get most excited about auto technology for fun stuff—massaging seats, touchscreens, and ambient lighting. Elon Musk has even introduced “Emissions Mode” to his Tesla Model 3 so you can program your turn signal to sound like a fart. Cool, yes, but developers also want us to know how new technology can keep drivers safer. After all, the ultimate driver experience is one that gets you to your destination in one piece.
If you saw Minority Report, you remember the future Tom Cruise whipping around virtual computer screens with a sweep of his hand. Carmakers want to make that a reality not just for the novelty, but for safety reasons, too. The Continental motor company has already developed a capability for basic gestures to open and close windows or change radio stations. Being able to control these systems without having to momentarily look away from the road should keep drivers more focused and prevent collisions.
Drivers can expect more cameras in their cars to better see traffic around them. Sensors can help them be aware of pedestrians. Dashcams will record everything in the event of an accident. And now researchers are turning their attention to one of the major causes of accidents: wildlife wandering into roads. Infrared cameras and radars will be able to recognize interlopers, like deer, with enough time to automatically apply the brakes safely. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Volvo are already incorporating this technology for new models.
Color-Changing Smart Signs
New safety features aren’t just limited to your car; new technology can keep drivers safer even from the side of the road. Distracted drivers can even miss warning signs specially engineered for maximum brightness, causing accidents and worse. Now scientists are working on retroreflective sign materials that change color and flash for drivers at rates that reflect the vehicle’s speed. In combination with wireless sensors, smart signs could communicate warnings through sounds and dashboard signals, while the changing colors help drivers judge distance more accurately.