By Debbie Hersman
As a child, I watched The Jetsons, that futuristic family with a robot maid named Rosie, an oven that instantly produced a fully cooked dinner on demand, and an automated flying car that often saved George from his own absent-mindedness. Rosie and the oven were nice conveniences, but the flying car kept the Jetsons safer.
Today, years later, I’m in Michigan touring the proving grounds of the Big Three automakers and other manufacturers in the automotive world. I am seeing firsthand the technology that may bring us closer to the Jetsons’ flying car and help make driving safer. Things like adaptive cruise control, collision warning systems, blind spot detection, and lane departure warning systems can alert drivers to dangers they do not recognize. Some technologies, such as active braking and ESC, can even help compensate for a driver’s inability to identify stopped traffic ahead or negotiate a sharp curve while moving too fast, which can lead to a deadly rollover.
The automotive industry has made many advances in passenger vehicle safety. Especially encouraging is the fact that some of the technology is also being tested on large trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles. Too often, the NTSB investigates accidents in which these technologies, if installed on large trucks, could have prevented a tragedy on the highway.
Just like George Jetson, we will all make mistakes. While new automotive technologies are designed to assist the driver, rather than replace the driver, if they are widely deployed across the fleet, they have the potential to drive down the number of fatalities on our highways by bridging the gap between the human, the environment, and the machine.