By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
I submit for review several simple design ideas for anyone associated with the auto industry to consider. Most are software defined so implementation should be of low cost.
Horn Loudness Commensurate with Speed
At highway speeds, wind and engine noise within vehicle cabins often dampens the ability to hear other vehicles’ horns. I especially noticed an analogue of this regarding sirens while operating emergency vehicles. When responding with sirens on highways, other drivers do not hear the siren until I am right behind them.
In addition to better audibility at high speeds, at low speed horn volume can be reduced to aid in urban quieting.
Flashing 3rd Brake Light Upon Rapid Deceleration
One datum not conveyed to other drivers upon braking is the speed at which the vehicle decelerates. Current design shows only a binary state–no braking and brake pedal pressed. Drivers rely on depth perception and an internal sense of timing to determine the rate the ahead vehicle is slowing.
A rapid and unexpected braking is a significant cause of rear-end collisions, especially on highways on approach of traffic jams. Using accelerometers on board to sense a rapid stop at a certain threshold would cause a rapid flashing of the 3rd brake light to warn oncoming drivers from the rear of a sudden stop or slowing.
I noted a similar practice used by drivers in Germany on the Autobahn. To warn other drivers when a rapid braking is occurring, drivers will hit the Hazard button to cause the rear lights to flash in warning other drivers that they need to immediately slow down (due to a “Stau”). An automatic version of this will be beneficial but in only using a flashing third brake light it will not cause the turn signals to be overridden by using the Hazard Warning lights.
A Feature to Detect the Traffic Signal Pre-emption Device of Oncoming Emergency Vehicles
A Traffic Signal Pre-emption Device is one typically mounted on the emergency lights of a police, ambulance or fire vehicle that flashes ultra-violet light at a rapid, measured rate that causes traffic signal aspects to change to a setting that better allows the emergency vehicle to pass through an intersection while at the same time making other vehicles stop.
In the United States many cities and urban counties have this equipment. While the system is primarily designed for changing traffic signal aspects, the same system can be utilized to warn drivers of vehicles equipped with cameras, such as the Subaru EyeSight system.
The basic functionality of the system would be if the vehicle is equipped with front and rear cameras, upon detection of a rapidly flashing light in the ultra-violet range and above a set rate of flash, the system would announce to the driver the approach of an emergency vehicle and the direction, based upon camera position of that approach. Preferably voice command will be used such as a tone, then “Emergency vehicle approaching from the rear”. The language used would be localized to whatever the user configured their dash display.
While oftentimes emergency vehicles use sirens, that is not always the case, especially at early hours in the morning or when police are responding to in-progress calls when they do not want the suspect to hear the sirens and flee. Moreover, and especially in urban settings, the sound frequency used by sirens has a tendency to echo and reflect, making it difficult for the listening public to determine direction.
Flashing Headlights Upon Horn Activation
This provides an additional aid to draw attention to a vehicle sounding a warning horn.
Activate Backup Camera When Using Turn Signals
Proper lane changing avoids most collisions, that is using both rear and wing mirrors coupled with a head check prior to signaling and changing lanes. Yet there do exist some blind spots at forty-five degrees from the back of the car. Backup Cameras usually have wide fields of view and provide an extra perspective that shows objects in close proximity to the rear.
Device to Drop Small Tags Having Vehicle Identification Number If Collision Detected
This is not so much a safety device as it is an aid in identifying Hit and Run drivers. If the system detects a collision as evidenced by Air Bag deployment or other detection means the vehicle pops open a device that scatters VIN tags onto the ground. In the event of a hit and run, law enforcement or other drivers can obtain the tags to facilitate locating fleeing drivers.
Make Engine Compartment Cleaning Part of Regular Maintenance Schedule
Aside from the obvious virtue of cleanliness, regular and proper cleaning of the engine compartment and engine forestalls the buildup of flammable oils and chemicals that can lead to vehicle fires caused by electrical faults and other ignitions. Adding a cleaning schedule will serve as public interest to generate awareness to the problem.
By Darren Smith
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