As millions of cars are under recall for potentially lethal air bags, designers are trying to reduce the need for the device – using sensors, radar, cameras and lasers to prevent collisions in the first place.
With driver error blamed for over 90 percent of road accidents, the thinking is it would be better to have them do less of the driving. The U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that forward-collision warning systems cut vehicle-to-vehicle crashes by 7 percent – not a quantum leap, but a potential life saver. Nearly 31,000 people died in car accidents in 2012 in the United States alone.
“Passive safety features will stay important, and we need them. The next level is now visible. Autonomous driving for us is clearly a strategy to realise our vision for accident-free driving,” said Thomas Weber, global R&D head at Mercedes-Benz .
While giving a computer full control of a car is some way off, there’s a lot it can do in the meantime.