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An Inside Look at the Next Evolution of Vehicle Safety Systems

Posted: December 14, 2021


Something big is happening in the automotive industry, and we’re here for it. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) — combined with regulatory, consumer and societal pressures — are driving the shift to a whole new level of vehicle connectivity and safety performance.

A live roundtable from the 2021 WCX Digital Summit tackled this exciting topic head-on. Led by moderator John Waraniak, CEO and Co-Founder of Have Blue, the Next-Generation Safety Performance: Safety is the New Horsepower session featured a notable panel of thought leaders and influencers from across the industry, who discussed the key safety takeaways in mobility to keep an eye on over the coming decade.


1. The racetrack is ground zero for automotive innovation.


According to Waraniak, racing focuses on problem-solving and demonstrating advanced technology on the world stage. It also serves as inspiration for automotive engineers. He cites the Dallara IL-15 racecar as a symbol of the industry’s future. The Dallara is the official racecar used for the Indy Autonomous Challenge, a $1.5 million university prize competition designed to advance safety and performance in autonomous technologies. “This is really going to be that next-generation moonshot to get us to that next level, making vehicles faster, smarter and certainly safer,” Waraniak said.


2. As vehicle safety technologies grow, so do privacy and security concerns.


Analyzing data from connected vehicles can help pinpoint the cause of accidents and inform changes that lead to safer cars. Case in point: the use of black box recorders, like the one retrieved from golf legend Tiger Woods’ crash site in February 2021. But consumer advocates caution against implementing intrusive technologies before creating policies that protect drivers from misuse of information.

Roundtable presenter David Strickland, Democratic Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, weighed in: “Being able to use and collect data to improve the safety and performance of the fleet has become paramount. However, there are a ton of safety and privacy considerations, and expectations in terms of how the product is used and what people are learning about them. Trying to find that right balance is difficult.”

Before autonomous vehicles shift from experimental to mainstream, the privacy and security issues will need to be addressed.


3. The next 10 years will bring major advancements in vehicle safety profiles.


Panelist Brian Daugherty, CTO of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), talked about how far vehicle safety has come in the last decade — and where we’re headed next. Cameras and sensors have become increasingly sophisticated to allow for innovations such as lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warnings and pedestrian detection. “Everything is getting integrated in new architectures and providing improved human machine interface with the driver, who is interacting with these systems,” Daugherty explained. “The systems are getting easier to use and are appreciated by drivers because we’ve gone from warnings to active assistance. In the future, we’ll go to limited and then full automation.”

Daugherty said that advanced hardware, combined with test data coming in from ADAS and experimental Level 4 systems, will help us move from SAE Level 1™ and Level 2 systems — like Tesla Autopilot and GM Super Cruise — to true SAE Level 4™ capabilities. “It’s going to be quite exciting and I think it’s going to be a huge step forward in the safety of vehicle systems,” he added.


4. The aftermarket can play a bigger role in automotive safety innovation.


In 2008, Congress passed legislation requiring regulators to issue a standard for improving drivers’ ability to detect pedestrians behind their cars. However, backup cameras weren’t mandated in new vehicles until 2018. During this 10-year gap, more than 2,000 people died, and more than 120,000 people were injured. Presenter Chris Cook, President of the Mobile Electronics Association, used these numbers to underscore the potential of aftermarket innovation and implementation to save lives. There are many safety technologies that can be added to the 280 million vehicles now on the road — whether it’s collision avoidance or blind spot detection. Yet in some cases, automakers don’t share data for how to retrofit older cars with advanced safety technologies, creating extra work for engineers.

“From the aftermarket [standpoint], I’m not talking about creating an autonomous vehicle,” Cook said. “I’m talking about just the simple passive safety devices. So I feel that automakers and aftermarket working together will make a difference in the future. I see that integration of the two building a firm foundation for the next generation of safety performance.”


Like what you’ve read so far? This is just the tip of the iceberg, so don’t miss next year’s event! Register today to reserve your spot for WCX 2022