Will Crash-Avoidance Systems Eliminate Accidents?

Advances in crash-avoidance systems have hit a fevered pace over the last few years, including vehicle-stability technology requirements on all 2012 models aimed at preventing rollover accidents . New advances are possible primarily because of telematics like GPS navigation systems and advanced computer-controlled drive systems. This technology is only the beginning of many incredible things to come—but will it eliminate auto accidents?

BMW’s Left Turn Assist leverages GPS and ABS. It can calculate the car’s position in traffic, determine if it is in the left-turn lane, and use forward-facing radar to scan oncoming traffic to figure out if a left turn can safely be completed.  If not, the vehicle automatically applies the brakes and emits a warning. 

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The National Highway Transportation Administration is also developing a potential accident-avoidance plan called Intelligent Transportation System that uses vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure telematics to avoid intersection collisions and other types of V2V accidents. For example, if two cars are approaching a traffic-signal-controlled intersection, the system can tell from the traffic-signal infrastructure which vehicle has the green light and use GPS to calculate if the car facing the red light is slowing enough to stop for the signal.  If not, it will alert the driver with the green light, giving the driver time to avoid the other vehicle. Impressive, isn’t it?

Similarly, Volvo and Mercedes have automatic-braking systems that apply the brakes if the forward-facing radar senses the driver is not braking adequately to avoid rear-ending another vehicle.  Another Volvo  technology—City Safety—uses a forward-facing camera and  radar to identify pedestrians stepping in front of the car and will stop the car completely at speeds up to 22 mph. Given that many pedestrian accidents occur at speeds under 16 mph, this system will dramatically reduce these tragic of accidents.

Several manufacturers with moderately priced vehicles also have accident-avoidance technology like blind-spot warning systems that caution drivers of vehicles and motorcycles in their blind spots as well as back-up cameras to help avoid striking pedestrians or objects when backing up.

These technologies are aimed at eliminating the vast majority of common accidents, but can accidents truly be eliminated by technology?  As long as human interaction is involved—and therefore human error—auto accidents will continue. Much of the technology noted above warns drivers—but warnings can be ignored.  Technology is not foolproof and can fail even with common occurrences like dirty camera or radar lenses.  So while we will continue to see a reduction in accidents of all types, they will always be around.        

Statements and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author. They are not offered as and do not constitute legal advice or opinion of Mitchell International Inc..    

About the Author
Greg Horn

Greg Horn

Greg Horn is vice president of industry relations for Mitchell International. Previously, he served as vice president of material damage claims at GMAC Insurance, where he was responsible for all aspects of the physical damage claims process and the implementation of a unique vehicle replacement program. Prior to GMAC, he served as director of material damage processes for National Grange Mutual. He can be reached at greg.horn@mitchell.com, www.mitchell.com.

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