SciTech

Vehicle safety add-on features can prevent 1.6 million crashes

Add-ons are a common concept nowadays. From cable packages, to insurance on Amazon purchases, to downloadable content in video games — it seems like everything comes in a basic, stripped down form, with the rest sold as extras. But what about those cases when the “extras” are just as or more valuable than the base they’re added to?

Take a car, for example. If you wanted to add a sound system, media center, or heated seats, your bill could quickly go up by several hundred dollars (depending on the manufacturer and dealer). Of course, these are luxury items, after all, so it makes sense that you’d have to pay a bit more for some added comfort.

But not all add-ons are created equal, and some are less about personal luxuries and more about safety. Car manufacturers are now equipping vehicles with driver-assist warning systems like camera arrays and radar, which enable blind-spot monitoring, collision warning systems, and even automated parallel parking.

So while self-driving vehicles might be just over the horizon, we have the potential to make our existing vehicles safer with the tech we have now. As Corey Harper, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon’s civil and environmental engineering department said, “We don’t have to wait for a future with self-driving cars to realize a lot of the benefits of sensing and automation.”

Harper and his colleagues recently published a study into a few of the driver-assist technologies available. The researchers came to the conclusion that these safety systems, if made standard on all US vehicles, could prevent “1.6 million crashes” per year. All totaled, the reduction could potentially create a “net benefit of more than $20 billion annually” for an average cost of $600 per car.

With any luck, the publication of their study might bring attention to the benefits of these features, especially for prospective car owners weighing their options. Not only do these safety features “provide distributed benefits… [such as] less congestion, fewer taxpayer-supported emergency responses,” but they also help prevent personal injuries, damages, and deaths.

Popularizing these added safety features can help reduce the frequency and costs of accidents on both a personal and public level. And with time, they may even become a part of the standard new-vehicle package at no extra cost.