The Latest Driver Safety Technologies
Every day, we're getting closer and closer to self-driving cars. In fact, a number of models are already on the market that are more than capable of driving hundreds of miles on the Interstate with almost no input from a human being.
Currently, they're required by law to disengage if the driver doesn't touch the steering wheel every so often, but the capability is here right now.
Meanwhile, the features that enable this capability are being marketed independently as the following driver safety technologies.
This is another way of saying "self-steering." Lane keeping assist typically relies upon cameras in the housing around the rearview mirror to literally read between the lines on the road ahead and keep the car placed between them. The best ones currently on the market can even negotiate curves. So basically, even if you're inattentive while behind the wheel on the highway, the car can keep itself in its lane.
This technology uses either lasers or radar to gauge the distance between your car and the car ahead of it to maintain your pre-selected interval between the two cars, regardless of the speed of the car in front. Once you set a maximum speed for your car, say 65 mph; as long at the car in front of you goes 65 yours will, too. If the car in front of you slows down, so will yours. If the car in front comes to a stop, your car stops, too. The most sophisticated ones will also set your car into motion again when the leading car moves again, like in a traffic jam.
These systems are constantly "looking" out in front of the car. If they determine you are approaching a stationary object at speed, they warn you of the presence of the obstruction. If you do nothing, they brake to slow the car as much as possible just before impact to reduce the severity of the crash.
The above innovations are made possible by computer-controlled electric power steering, braking, and throttle systems. Even though they're designed to function primarily according to the driver's inputs, these systems enable contemporary cars to be largely capable of completely taking over should the driver become inattentive or incapacitated. Further, if a crash proves unavoidable, they can also autonomously summon emergency assistance if airbags deploy.
By the way, if you are driving an older car, one of the most convenient new technologies to emerge of late is Bluetooth connectivity. Pretty much standard equipment in all new cars these days, Bluetooth connectivity allows the driver to make and receive phone calls while keeping both hands on the steering wheel. Some will even play the music on your iPod or smartphone through your car's stereo system.
If your car stereo has an auxiliary input port, you can get an Aux Input Bluetooth kit that consists of a Bluetooth module, a power adaptor, and a cable to connect the module to the Aux-in port of your stereo. Once you plug it in and pair your phone to the module, you can simply switch the stereo to "Aux" to use it.
If you want to avoid dealing with all of those wires -- after all, you're looking at a cable for the power and another one to get into the Aux port on your car stereo -- you can go with an in-dash external Bluetooth interface. You'll likely need a professional stereo installer to fit it to your car, and you'll have to make sure your existing stereo is compatible, but it will work as if the car came from the factory with Bluetooth.
The Bluetooth FM Transmitter is a remarkable device, relatively new and very simple to use. Plug it into your car's power port (cigarette lighter socket), pair it to receive the Bluetooth signal from your device, then set it to an unused FM frequency. Your car stereo then picks it up like an FM radio station, transmitting phone calls through the speakers. It also transmits music in stereo from your digital audio player.
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by Lyndon Conrad Bell for Motor Matters
When it comes to automobiles, LYNDON CONRAD BELL finds beauty in functionality, performance, and utility. Since 1998, his byline has appeared on Forbes.com, Autobytel.com, SportsCarMonitor.com, MotorAuthority.com, and OnWheelsInc.com. For print publications, Bell has written for Essence magazine, On Wheels magazine, LX magazine, Upscale magazine, the Canadian Auto Press, and Auto World Weekly. A California State University graduate with a degree in Media Studies, Bell resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.WUQq.dpuf