The Safety Implications of a Connected Car

In the age of the connected car, it’s hard to believe that just two centuries ago, Francois Isaac de Rivaz invented the first internal combustion engine that would later fit into an automobile.

From Charles Kettering to Ralph Teetor, innovators across the decades have improved upon the original model—adding seat belts, power steering, cruise control, power locks and keyless ignition, for example. And more modern innovations are proving to be especially impactful, offering a host of positive safety implications.

Today’s cars are more powerful, efficient, automated and connected. The contemporary car is enhanced with automated vehicle technology features that have the computing power of 20 PCs, according to McKinsey & Company. And all this power makes modern autos both more appealing and safer for consumers.

Connected car features

With all of the UI and UX advancements to motor vehicles, one might think that what draws most consumers to the connected car is added convenience. In a recent survey conducted by Spireon, however, drivers cited the following among the most desired connected car features:

  • On-board diagnostics
  • Fuel pattern monitoring
  • In-car voice commands
  • In-car internet

Interestingly, it wasn’t convenience that topped the list. The most significant (and desirable) advancements in vehicle connectivity were added safety and security.

Collision risk reduction

Since the advent of automobiles, crashes have remained the primary danger associated with car travel—with the majority due to human error. Thanks to advancements in connectivity, this could all change. The impact of the connected car in reducing collision risks, particularly self-driving and other autonomous vehicles, is substantial. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) projects that around 80 percent of all crash scenarios could be prevented with the use of these technologies.

With approximately 1.3 million auto deaths reported annually, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, this accident-prevention technology could mean literally saving over a million lives.

The most beneficial accident-prevention technologies are crash and collision warning systems. These alert drivers when they are approaching another vehicle or a stationary object too quickly. In many instances, they even apply the brakes for the motorist.

Also advantageous are lane departure warnings. Systems of this type let drivers know if they’re veering off course. This not only redirects a distracted driver, but can also awaken the motorist in case he or she starts to doze off.

It’s not just the people in the car who benefit from these features. Those outside are also safer due to pedestrian avoidance features. In most cars, automated pedestrian avoidance means the vehicle can either apply the brake or redirect itself away from any person in its path.

Safety monitoring

Honest drivers would probably acknowledge that they drive safer when they know they’re being watched. Just like a 16-year-old who triple checks his blind spot and uses his blinker when changing lanes because mom is in the car, a motorist’s degree of focus, speed and safety compliance are influenced by the presence of an audience.

With contemporary vehicle advancements, drivers can have this “audience” even when driving solo. This is thanks to vehicle telematics, which has as many potential applications as it does benefits. Telematic devices are able to track many facets of driving behavior, including speed, travel patterns and hard-braking frequency. Growing in popularity with insurance companies, telematic devices allow carriers, for example, to monitor and reward safe-driving habits and better detect accident fraud amongst their insured drivers.

Security needs

With these innovations comes the need for added protection. Because connected cars use the internet, they are also vulnerable to the same cybersecurity issues as a home computer or smartphone. Hackers could potentially control everything from the direction of travel to speed, so the dangers associated with being infiltrated are great. Consumer Reports noted this growing concern, warning buyers that dedicated hackers can—and perhaps even will—hack into connected vehicles.

Fortunately, NHTSA is actively working to make cars harder to hack. So far, their efforts are focused on building up firewalls and decreasing the degree to which automakers use standardized software.

Experts anticipate this will certainly decrease the ease with which would-be cyber-intruders can access a vehicle. But it’s important to remember that hacking will likely continue to be a concern.

With plentiful features and enticing bells and whistles, connected cars are certain to grow in popularity. Thanks to the security features that are built into these smart vehicles, safer times on the road are ahead.