In-Car tech: Nine advancements improving our road safety

In-Car tech: Nine advancements improving our road safety

Statistics prove UK roads have gradually become safer over the past couple of years. Although our roads are busier than ever – with vehicle traffic having increased by 6.5%1 between 2012 and 2017 – road casualties have fallen by 11%2 since 2010.

What’s changed?

Road safety campaigns promoting public awareness have played a huge role, but so too have technological advancements. Thanks to state-of-the-art safety features and in-car tech, cars are now safer and more efficient than ever.

Our recent Connected Car report3 highlights that the vast majority (74%) of us use devices to improve our life behind the wheel.

Most popular in-car tech devices

However, even though many of us champion road safety, our report brings to light that less than a third (29%) prioritise safety features when choosing a new car, despite the fact they could be life-saving.

Vehicle safety technology has come on leaps and bounds, and has played a part in the casualty reductions we have seen in recent decades. Understanding and prioritising safety technology when purchasing a vehicle is really important, helping to create safer roads for all.

Richard Coteau, Brake

Here’s a brief overview of some technologies you should look out for when buying your next car.

Active safety features

Active safety features are systems that help minimise the chance of road collisions occurring, not only improving the safety of occupants, but also that of other road users.

1. Active headlights

Standard versus active headlights

Active headlights adjust depending on driving environment to help better illuminate the road ahead.

How do they work?

Unlike standard headlights, which are fixed and only illuminate the road directly in front of your car, active headlights use electronic sensors to detect steering and move depending on the direction in which the car’s heading.

2. Adaptive cruise control

Adaptive cruise control maintains a set speed, and automatically speeds up or slows down to hold a consistent gap between your car and the one ahead.

How does it work?

Adaptive cruise control is the revamped, bettered version of traditional cruise control. It uses sensors – such as radar – to study the road ahead and adjusts speed depending on what’s happening on the road ahead. If, for example, a car directly in front slows down, the system will reduce speed by the same amount.

3. Anti-lock braking system

Anti-lock Braking system

In the event of heavy braking due to an emergency, anti-lock braking systems (ABS) help you steer by preventing the wheels from locking up, consequently reducing the likelihood of skidding.

How does it work?

The system uses sensors to monitor the wheels. Should the wheels begin ‘locking-up’ – or stop rotating – the system will rapidly release and apply the brakes to prevent your car from skidding. This allows you to maintain control over the cars direction, and gives you a better chance of safely bringing your car to a standstill.

4. Attention monitoring systems

Attention monitoring systems analyse your reactions and responses, looking for signs of tiredness.

Did you know?

Research indicates that one in five accidents on major roads in the UK are sleep related.


How does it work?

Using the same sensors as lane departure and lane keeping systems, attention monitoring systems will track where your car sits within road lanes. If the system detects your car frequently drifting in and out of lane within a certain timeframe, it will advise you to stop for a break.

5. Blind spot monitoring

Blind spot monitoring

The system warns you of any vehicles driving in your blind spots.

How does it work?

Blind spot monitoring uses sensors to detect whether any vehicles are travelling adjacently. It consequently warns you via lights in the side-view mirrors or dashboard. Some versions also use audible alerts should you attempt to change lane while another vehicle is travelling in your blind spot.

6. Electronic stability control (ESC)

The system helps avoid loss of control in bends and during emergency steering manoeuvres. ESC is such an important development in terms of road safety, that manufacturers are required by law to install this in all new vehicles. Although the term used to describe the system can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, its functionality remains more or less the same across the market.

Did you know?

Studies highlight that, in Europe alone, ESC can save up to 4,000 lives each year and prevent almost 100,000 injuries

Source:Euro NCAP

How does it work?

Using a number of sensors, the system interprets the direction in which your car is travelling and the movement of each individual wheel. If a wheel were to lose traction, or your car starts moving in a direction you didn’t intent it to, the system will adjust the car’s speed by reducing engine power and applying brakes to individual wheels.

7. Forward collision warning

Forward collision warning

The system warns you of an imminent collision with a stationary or slower moving car ahead.

How does it work?

Front-end sensors, such as cameras or radar, detect how close the car in front is. Should there be a hazard ahead, the system will alert you via vibrations, sounds or visuals, allowing you enough time to react to the danger ahead, and in some cases will apply the brakes for you.

8. Lane departure warning and lane-keeping technology

Lane departure warnings alert you should your car start drifting out of lane without indicating. Lane-keeping assist, on the other hand, goes one step further. This technology, as well as detecting whether your car is drifting out of lane, will also steer it back into the correct lane.

How does it work?

The system uses a camera to detect how close your car is to road marking. Should it sense the car start drifting into the adjacent lane without you indicating, it will either alert you through sound or vibration, or steer the car back into lane.

9. Tyre pressure monitoring (TPMs)

TPM systems warn you if your tyres are over, or under, inflated. Not only does this reduce fuel consumption, but could also increase safety by preventing tyre punctures.

Did you know?

Since November 2014, all new passenger vehicles in the EU are required to have TPMs by law

How does it work?

These systems work one of two ways, through direct or indirect sensors. Direct sensors monitor tyre pressure from within the individual tyres themselves, sending ongoing feedback to the dashboard where you can keep an eye on this at all times. Indirect sensors on the other hand measure wheel rotation, and only feed back to you should a tyre’s pressure be too low.

Technology – friend or foe?

While technology may be hindering road safety on certain fronts, such as potentially distracting drivers, in the grand scheme of things this is one of the driving forces behind the drastic improvement in road safety over the past half century.

Not only does technology help prevent road collisions in the first place but, in the unfortunate event of these occurring, it decreases the chance of injury and mortality – saving a considerable number of lives each year.

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Additional Sources

[3]Unless stated otherwise, all statistics relate to a survey of 2,134 UK drivers who drive at least once a week. The poll was conducted by Censuswide research in April 2017.

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