Since the invention of the vehicle, driver and passenger safety have been a major concern. Vehicle safety technology such as air bags and adaptive headlights has improved and ensure safer driver experiences for consumers and fleet drivers alike.
Now in the era of vehicle connectivity, the future of this technology can take just about any turn. Above all, it’s important to know what’s out there.
Frontal and Radar-Based Collision Avoidance Systems
Designed to avoid or reduce the severity of a frontal collision, the frontal collision system first monitors traffic in front of the vehicle. Sensors, radar, and cameras measure the distance and speed between vehicles.
Systems like this were first introduced to OEMs’ luxury vehicle lineups, but have been steadily integrated into commercial vehicles. Now, virtually all automakers have a variation on the system.
Frontal collision avoidance systems are especially helpful for fleets that travel in urban areas with stop and go commutes; where there is a lot of foot traffic.
Radar-based collision avoidance systems are a broader term used to define the technology that helps drivers avoid frontal or rear-end collisions. These systems rely on radar and automatic braking technology. Frontal collision avoidance systems pair up with automatic braking, which also warns the driver and tries to avoid collisions with another vehicle, person, or obstacle.
These collision avoidance systems are recommended for fleets of all vehicle types, because they can be the key to saving lives and preventing major car pileups.
Automatic braking systems are activated when the vehicle senses that there will be an imminent collision whether it is with another car, a pedestrian, or an obstacle.
Automatic braking is the first part of the collision avoidance system, because is stops the car from colliding with whatever obstacle is in front of it before it happens.The same sensors located in the front of the vehicle as part of the frontal collision avoidance system aid in the detection of potential hazards, which alert the vehicle.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2015, 10 automakers agreed to install automatic braking systems as a standard vehicle safety feature in new vehicles.
Automatic braking systems rely on radar or laser-based ranging (LIDAR), which operate on a similar concept, sensors in the front of the vehicle send out signals to analyze potential obstacles ahead. LIDAR works in the same manner, but it works best in a short range radius.
The benefits of having automatic braking systems integrated into a fleet vehicle:
- Reduction in overall crash rates.
- Reduction in stopping distance.
- Potential preservation of life.
Automakers are pushing to make automatic braking standard. To solidify the need for automatic braking systems as standard equipment is a recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). According to the study, vehicles equipped with both forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking reduce rear-end collision rates by 39% and also reduce rates of rear-end crashes with injuries by 42%.
NHTSA and IIHS reported that approximately 20 automakers are committing to making automatic braking systems standard in all new cars sold in the U.S. by September 1, 2022.
Automatic braking systems are highly recommended for all fleets, as with collision avoidance systems, they minimize the risk of severe damage or loss of life.
Blind Spot Warnings
Side view mirrors help fleet drivers catch any vehicles or pedestrians passing behind them as they try to switch lanes or back out of a parking space.
With further advancements and testing, there are now blind spot monitoring cameras and sensors that serve as a secondary line of defense, when side view mirrors are rendered obsolete.
The cameras are small and usually under the side view mirror.
When a vehicle is trying to change lanes, the blind spot monitoring technology kicks in, and if it senses cars coming up in the fleet driver’s blind spots, it warns the driver. Warnings can be visual, audible, or tactile (driver’s seat may vibrate).
Blind spot warning help provide a holistic coverage of the area surrounding the vehicle. Blind spot warning is a short-range detection system.
This safety technology is ideal for delivery and service trucks and vans that operate in urban areas.
Cross Traffic Alerts
Similar to blind spot warning, cross traffic alerts warn the fleet driver about vehicles they may collide with.
With this safety technology in place, the fleet driver would be notified of vehicles approaching his or her side.
Cross traffic alert systems rely on the same sensors as blind spot detection systems. When both systems are put in place, they are the safety net that protects the car almost entirely.
And, it is important to note that cross traffic alerts only inform drivers of other vehicles they may collide with. Cross traffic alerts do not detect objects (e.g., walls, poles, trees, etc.), people or animals.
This safety technology is useful for vehicles that navigate parking lots or must back out of tight spaces.
While navigating a dark, winding road, a fleet driver wants the guarantee that they can see far ahead of their vehicle so they avoid hitting a jogger or a deer. Adaptive headlights expand the scope of view for the driver.
They follow the direction of the vehicle, and they change their view of focus to accommodate the environment where the vehicle is being operated. They may also accommodate to the speed of the vehicle.
For instance, a fleet driver is about to get on a freeway on-ramp and there’s minimal visibility in front of the vehicle, with adaptive headlights, the lights would follow the curves and turns the driver makes.
The driver doesn’t have to worry about manually adjusting the direction or strength of the lights; the headlights control that.
Similar to the majority of safety technologies outlined, adaptive headlights rely on sensors to detect the speed of the car, and how the driver is turning the steering wheel. These sensors operate small electric motors in the headlights that help change the angle at which the light beams out or the strength.
The lights will not activate if and when the vehicle is not in motion or when it is in reverse.
This safety technology is especially useful for fleets that operate in more rural areas.
Rear view cameras, also known as backup cameras, help fleet drivers see the back of the vehicle, which is especially important when the vehicle is backing out of a space or maneuvering into a parking space.
With blind spot warning, cross traffic alerts, and rear view cameras, the driver has assurance — aside from their safe driving practices — that their blind spots are in view.
The rear view camera activates when the transmission is set to reverse. And, the video or image of the vehicle’s rear is filtered into either a screen on the center console of the vehicle or the rearview mirror.
Rear view cameras will become standard equipment by 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
All fleet types would benefit from this safety technology, especially those fleets with light-duty trucks.
Lane Departure Warning
With the increase in distracted and drowsy driving, it is especially important to have warning systems when a fleet driver starts to veer out of his or her lane.
The lane departure warning (LDW), which originates from lane keep assist, allows the vehicle to correct itself if it’s veering off-side or reaching the lane markings.
When the driver is drifting out of their lane, the LDW is activated and the driver will see a warning on the dashboard, hear a sound or feel the steering wheel or seat vibrate.
This technology relies mainly on cameras that detect lane markings ahead of the vehicle. The camera is usually placed on the windshield. LDW would not work for fleet drivers in rural areas, where roads aren’t always marked. Also, this safety feature would not be reliable in inclement weather.
Fleet drivers need to be aware that the LDW will not be activated if the turn signal is on.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive cruise control (ACC) is known by many names, including intelligent cruise control and autonomous cruise control. It is the next evolution of cruise control.
The system of radar and sensors allows the fleet driver to maintain the vehicle at a pre-set speed and have a set distance between itself and the vehicle in front.
Adaptive cruise control is easy to operate; the fleet driver must first reach the desired speed. Most vehicles available in the market have a button that the driver would push, and from there, the driver usually picks the desired speed parameters, and the space desired between vehicles.
When this feature is engaged, there is typically an icon illustrating that this feature is in use. The sensors and radars on which ACC relies on are located in the front of the vehicle.
Similar to lane departure warning, ACC is not reliable during inclement weather.
ACC is ideal for delivery fleets that frequently stop-and-go, as they deliver or pick up packages.
Air Bags and Seat Belts
It’s scary to think that vehicles once existed without air bags. It wasn’t until the 1980s, when the first commercial air bags were integrated into vehicles. Before airbags, there were seat belts.
Seat belts are the true first line of defense. They protect drivers, especially during collisions, from being ejected from their vehicles and into oncoming traffic.
The main goal of this rudimentary safety feature is to slowdown a fleet driver as his or her body is propelled forward during a collision. The air bag prevents the driver from ramming into his or her steering wheel and severely injuring him or herself.
With the latest recall in Takata air bags, it is now more important than ever to understand what the components of the typical air bag and how they are activated.
The bag is made from nylon fabric and comes out from the steering wheel or dashboard for the front passenger seat.
Sensors, of course, play an integral role in the deployment of air bags. When the vehicle collides with an object or another vehicle at a speed equivalent to running into a brick wall, the air bag inflation is triggered.
With more advances in safety, has come the addition of side curtain air bags, knee air bags, and even inflatable seat belts.
Seat belts work in tandem with air bags. The seat belt puts opposite pressure on the fleet driver and ensures he or she is securely in their seat. And, if a collision occurs, the driver is not jolted out; the seat belt keeps the driver in place and increases the effectiveness of the airbag.
Seat belts are considered primary restraint systems (PRS).
As fleet drivers and vehicles enter a new age of safety and technological innovation, there are other helpful components to be integrated into vehicles to increase driver safety, and, in some cases, eliminate the driver’s need to look at or search for his or her mobile phone.
The head-up display (HUD) is a relatively new technological advancement; it’s a transparent display of data that pops up on the windshield of the vehicle, in the driver’s line of sight.
Information like vehicle speed or navigation and even night vision can be readily seen if the vehicle is equipped with HUD.
Some automakers already have versions of HUD installed in their vehicles, but it has yet to be seen if it will become standard equipment in certain vehicle segments.
Third-party companies are developing their own versions of HUD to help drivers get rid of the need to check their phones. Through hand gestures, HUD could help drivers answer calls or turn off alarms while the driver keeps his or her eyes on the road. Similar to voice-command infotainment systems, HUD could even be voice activated.
There are potential drawbacks to the full integration of HUDs into vehicles, leading to questions such as how much technology does my vehicle need to have or can that call or text message wait?
HUDs are recommended for fleets where the vehicle operates as a mobile office, because it would help the fleet driver safely multitask as he or she travels from one place to another.
The Bottom Line
Vehicle safety has come a long way; from seat belts to air bags and most recently the development of automatic braking systems.
And, with the improvements in safety technology, naturally, the next step is a fully autonomous vehicle that integrates all these advancements.
And many automakers aren’t far off from having one in the market.
As some safety technology becomes standard equipment in vehicles, surely vehicle pricing will increase. But, that shouldn’t deter fleets from spending a little more if it means the driver; the vehicle and the product will arrive safely to each destination.