Auto Industry Execs: Three Road Safety Innovations To Keep An Eye On

Larry Alton

Each year, more than a million people are killed on roads and highways around the world and millions more are injured. Thankfully there is developing technology that may soon curb these devastating statistics. For leaders in the auto industry, now is a critical time to lean in and observe.

How technology is making roads safer

When technology and driving are mentioned in the same conversation, the connotations are typically negative. Distracted driving is a huge concern in countries all over the world – particularly here at home in the U.S. – and technology is one of the primary culprits.

In 2016 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives and injured another 391,000.

“During daylight hours, approximately 481,000 drivers are using cellphones while driving,” the NHTSA explains. “That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.”

But while smartphones and other technology serve as distractions, there’s also reason to be hopeful that new technology could actually make our roadways safer. For organizations in and around the auto industry, these promising developments, gadgets, and trends are worth watching:

1. Speed-detection cameras

Drivers typically view speed-detection cameras as undesirable. Nobody wants to know they’re being watched – especially when it means they could end up with an expensive fine or mark on their driving record. But the reality is that speed detection plays a profoundly positive role in roadway safety.

“When you consider the number of people impacted by even a single road death or serious injury – the family, the friends, the work colleagues – it’s easier to accept the importance of promoting good speed sense and to appreciate the value of the contribution speed cameras make towards protecting us from preventable, unnecessary grief and suffering,” according to AXA Car Insurance.

AXA points to research that suggests reducing the average speed on our roads by just five percent could reduce road fatalities by 20% and injuries by 10%. So, while they may force drivers to slow down, people can rest easy knowing that speed-detection cameras are making local roads and interstates safer for everyone. This also creates an opportunity for auto industry execs to shift the focus away from speed and towards other elements of the driving experience – such as comfort and safety.

2. Intelligent road studs

Highways England is set to install 170 innovative LED road studs at a motorway junction that’s used by more than 90,000 vehicles per day. The studs, which will be installed at Switch Island in Merseyside, North England, will light up when traffic lights turn from red to green, and vice versa. This will enable drivers to see which lanes to follow and when to slow down.

At the junction where the road studs are being installed, there have been 49 serious collisions over the past two years. “The innovative light-up road studs, along with the other improvements we’re introducing, will make it much easier to navigate the junction, benefiting the tens of thousands of drivers who travel through it every day,” says Phil Tyrrell, project manager at Highways England.

Since this is the first project of its kind, it remains to be seen how practical and effective intelligent road studs will be. The best-case scenario is that it will reduce the number of accidents. At the very least, it shows that innovation is moving in the right direction. And if the technology does work, it will signal a major opportunity for companies in the auto industry to innovate similar products stateside.

3. Autonomous car features

You can’t talk about driving technology without mentioning autonomous vehicles. While we’re still a few years away from fully driverless cars, the technology in newer car models is greatly improving. Today’s autonomous features include advanced cruise control, lane departure warnings, automatic parallel parking, and sensors that detect objects and initiate braking.

Adding it all up

Whether it’s New York City, Paris, Tokyo, or anywhere in between, you’ll be hard-pressed to find drivers, insurers, administrators, lawmakers, or healthcare professionals who don’t want safer roads and highways. Crashes and collisions impact us all in one way or another, and fewer accidents would mean fewer injuries, deaths, and catastrophes. But there’s no group of people who want safer roads more than auto industry execs. If roads don’t get safer, jobs are on the line.

The good news is that technology is improving at a rapid rate. We’re finally at a point where we have the technology to make roads safer. But with some hurdles still left to be cleared in implementation and application, time is of the essence. Getting insurance companies, government organizations, and lawmakers to adopt these technologies is another battle that must be painstakingly won.

The hope is that these victories will be won in the coming months.

Learn more about How High-Tech And Automotive Industries Propel The Future.

About Larry Alton

Larry is a freelance marketing & technology consultant with a background in IT. Follow him on Twitter @LarryAlton3.