Forget Robot Cars — We Need More Self-Braking Cars
Don't believe the hype about self-driving cars. Or, at the very least, don't believe the timetable implied by media coverage of the Google Car and similar robotic vehicles. The design cycle for traditional automobiles, from the first sketch to the first models hitting the showroom, is typically between three and five years, and that's without having to test autonomous sensors and drive-by-wire components in all forms of weather and road conditions. Robots are still a long, long way from chauffeuring us around.
Luckily, the road to autonomous cars is paved with lifesaving active safety features. And one that consumers (and lawmakers) should consider making universal is the growing class of pre-collision systems. The brand names and functionality vary by company — Toyota calls theirs "Toyota Safety Sense," while Cadillac talks about "sensor fusion" technology — but these systems all can either brake automatically when sensors predict that a collision is imminent, or alert you to apply the brakes (there are combination solutions, as well, that will brake harder, if the vehicle concludes that you're underestimating the risk). The features are rolling out right now on select models, but a safety upgrade that's this significant should be an upsell. Soon, pre-collision tech could be as common — and possibly as required of carmakers — as seatbelts.