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Apr 05, 2019 10:40 AM EDT

How New Car Technology Could Prevent Pedestrian Deaths

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Saving the lives of pedestrians is one of the most challenging aspects of designing the automotive industry of the future, but today's leading tech companies are hard at work trying to use new car technology to avoid preventable deaths. The rise of autonomous vehicles and sensory-laden roadways will change everything we know about preventing pedestrian deaths, and a new era of smart cities could spell an end to traffic fatalities as a serious societal problem.

Here's how new car technology could prevent pedestrian deaths by reinventing modern transportation as we know it.

Modern cars are becoming easier to stop

Getting a giant piece of metal to stop on a dime isn't easy, but modern automobiles are getting easier to stop all the time thanks to a number of technological innovations. Everything from more efficient design and manufacturing processes that rely on lighter materials to embedded sensors which detect obstructions in the road and hit the breaks automatically are helping us avoid collisions. A wide array of cars already come with automatic breaking as standard equipment, and we could soon see this trend become so commonplace that it becomes the new seatbelt. In the future, your car may be required to have automatic breaks in the same way that it's required to have safety belts and a tail light.

It's very likely that auto-braking will become the standard technology across the modern automobile industry in just a few years' time. The real growth in our ability to prevent pedestrian deaths won't just come from better breaks, however - it will largely be derived from the ability of future cars to communicate with the infrastructure and sensory environment surrounding them. Smart cities of the future will be inundated with sensors that smart cars can tap into to survey their surroundings to avoid pedestrians and traffic ahead of time, for instance, which will ultimately end up saving countless lives.

Vehicle-to-infrastructure technology is the real focal point of the future of saving pedestrian lives. The United States Department of Transportation is putting forward research plans centered around making it easier for smart vehicles to communicate with the public infrastructure around them. In the near-future, our highways, bridges, and local roadways will be equipped with government sensors that can directly communicate with your private car. This will extend beyond the automotive industry, too, and become a common fixture in airports, train stations, and other public transportation hotspots everywhere.

The rise of the smart city will save lives

Smart cars aren't the only thing that could prevent pedestrian deaths; smart cities, too, will make it easier to save lives thanks to clever infrastructure projects and a commitment to a pro-pedestrian lifestyle. The city of London has worked on placing LED smart crossings in areas with lots of pedestrian traffic, for instance, which could warn pedestrians who are about to unknowingly wander into a busy street. This is particularly useful in this day and age when everyone is distracted with a smartphone, as it's easy to wander into the street if your eyes are glued onto the screen in your hand.

Besides smart pedestrian signals, we'll also see smarter street lights that increase overall visibility and make it easier for drivers and autonomous vehicles to sense pedestrians in low-light environments. So-called "pedestrianization" will also create car-free zones that are generally safer for those trying to walk or bike their way around than what we have today, too. Smart cities continue to be exciting for a wide array of reasons, not least amongst them that they'll be hotspots for autonomous vehicles and roadways of the future that are safer for pedestrians.

Finally, cars of the future may come equipped with advanced infotainment that projects useful information directly onto the windshield in front of you as you're driving. While this may seem like distracted driving to some, the right information provided at the right time could give you a traffic or collision alert that ultimately ends up saving a pedestrian's life. As smart-glass tech turns modern windshields into high-tech video screens, automobiles will come closer and closer to resembling something out of a science-fiction movie.

The future of driving is looking better and better thanks to certain technological developments. As sensory technology gets better and better, we'll see fewer pedestrian deaths. Traffic fatalities may be a scourge for society today, but before we know it they may be a thing of the past.

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