The most anticipated innovation in automotive technology is the self-driving car. For years, researchers and automakers have been teasing the idea that our vehicles will someday drive themselves and that such travel will actually be safer than cars navigated by humans.
We’re not there yet, and many Americans remain distrustful of the idea of self-driving cars. But manufacturers are already introducing new features that partially automate the driving process, compensate for human error and even save drivers from their own poor choices. One of the companies leading this effort is Volvo.
Volvo has earned a reputation for building safe and innovative vehicles. Recently, the automaker announced a feature it plans to roll out by 2020. According to the company, new Volvos will include in-car cameras that monitor drivers – especially eye movement. If a driver looks away from the road for a certain period of time or fails to keep his hands on the steering wheel, the car will detect distraction. The vehicle may also be able to use similar metrics to detect drunk driving as well.
When a problem is detected, drivers may receive warnings from the vehicle or a call from a Volvo on-call assistance center. If these don’t solve the problem, the vehicle can safely slow down and park itself. Such technology could greatly reduce the likelihood of a drunk driving accident, a distracted driving crash or even an accident caused by drowsy driving.
There are, of course, several significant concerns with technology like this. First of all, many may wonder about the privacy implications. How will the video be used? Who will have access to it? Can it be subpoenaed by law enforcement?
There is also the idea that such technology is being given to those who may not need it. Many people who buy Volvos do so because they are already safety-conscious. Therefore, they may be less likely than the general population to engage in drunk or distracted driving.
Nonetheless, technology this useful can serve as a model to be adopted by other automakers. Even if we never fully embrace self-driving cars, safety innovations like this can make the driving experience much safer than it is today.