Almost every day I read about the newest consumer products taking advantage of innovations in sensors, networks, and interfaces. With the recent release of new smartphone, mobile OS, and mobile payment options, the smartphone I upgraded to less than a year ago already feels like a relic!
It’s a costly proposition to upgrade your smartphone each time a cool new feature is added. Of course, the cost of upgrading phone or tablet hardware pales in comparison with the costs of acquiring a new car with the latest technological advancements. Analysts estimate it can take several years for new tech features in automobiles to become pervasive on the roads.
With more and more technology coming into cars, we have the capability to augment our own driving judgment with feedback from blind spot indicators, collision and lane departure warnings, real time traffic updates and a host of other features. These offerings can be useful for us all, and perhaps crucial for those with teen drivers or young families with children riding in the backseat. But when newly introduced these features often come at a luxury price point and may not be easily accessible in the marketplace. Finding new paths through which we can deliver safety-improving technology to drivers could be a huge step to improve safety of older vehicles.
Last year, I bought a new car with many of the latest safety features. I recently sold the car as part of my move to the UK and for the last few months have driven rental cars in the US and UK, none of them with all of the features of my last car. I miss the driver assistance elements I have grown used to, and I could really use them when driving on the left side of the road! I’ve recently wondered if it would be possible to easily install after-market sensors and download the latest software to give me the capabilities I am missing.
In recent months we have seen an expansion of some of these offerings some of which use the driver’s mobile phone to detect objects and issue warnings. Some of the current add-ons aren’t cheap or easy to install, and others do not have the full functionality to make them truly useful. The good news is there is tremendous potential to help drivers avoid accidents if these technologies can be made more usable, cheaper and adaptable to existing cars. There is even greater potential to integrate these add-ons with UBI and potentially other data on driver habits to personalize the experience and help us all be safer drivers.
As an industry, and as part of the larger automotive ecosystem, we should continue to focus energy on the leading edge technologies coming on the road with each new model, but there is potential to make a tremendous impact on the safety of those who are driving older cars. And let’s face it: unless you have the means and motivation to buy a new car every year, your newest car is quickly about to become an older car.
Opal Perry is the VP Testing and Release Management at Allstate.
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