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Summit attendees discuss smart safety technologies to improve road safety
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Summit attendees discuss smart safety technologies to improve road safety

NORFOLK—Transportation officials and automotive engineers are imagining a future without crashes and fatalities, as innovators work to design systems and technologies to make roadways safer.

While full-fleet implementation of autonomous vehicles is still decades down the road, artificial intelligence and emerging safety technologies were discussed in detail at the ninth annual Distracted Driving Summit, presented by DRIVE SMART Virginia, in August.

Scott Schmidt, vice president of safety policy for the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, highlighted the latest safety features that are in development or already introduced into late-model vehicles.

Human error is a factor in a significant number of crashes.

“It’s still critical for us to improve on driver behavior,” he said. “But we’re working on systems that help address alcohol impairment, driver distraction and fatigue.”

New crash avoidance technologies currently available or in development include programmable speed limiters, adaptive cruise control, automatic speed limit reminders and driver attention and drowsiness monitoring.

Some vehicles use advanced sensor technologies that can sense an imminent collision and prepare the vehicle and restraint systems to enhance occupant protection.

Other systems are available that detect significant crashes and automatically alert first responders.

The automotive alliance issued a voluntary commitment to install rear-seat reminder systems to help prevent tragedies due to heatstroke.

“Many of our members have these installed already, but there is a commitment for this to be standard by the 2025 model year,” Schmidt said.

The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety Research Program is testing a new touch- or breath-based approach to measuring blood alcohol content. An infrared system in the ignition button or gear shift can detect ethanol in skin tissues. And a sensor in the door or steering column can measure alcohol molecules exhaled naturally. If above the .08 national limit, the vehicle will be inoperable, with zero tolerance for underage drivers.

Timothy Hogan, CEO of SaferStreet Solutions, encouraged summit participants to plop down in a demonstration driver’s seat while holding their cell phones. Immediately, a digital sign flashed an important message: Don’t text!

SmartSigns, like the no texting sign, were designed with patent-pending infrared technology that detects when a driver is distracted, tailgating, speeding or not wearing a seat belt. The SmartSigns are already deployed in areas of upstate New York and seem to be accepted by motorists.

“Similar to a radar sign, it will flash and remind them of rules of the road,” Hogan said. “By reducing unsafe driving acts, we prevent car accidents before they happen.”

Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. is a DRIVE SMART Virginia partner and summit sponsor.

Media: Contact Hogan at 585-613-5588, Tonya Parish, AAI, at 202-326-5500 or Rich Jacobs, DSV, at 804-929-6117.

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