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Plastic Electronics: The Future of Car Safety

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Most of the recent news stories about technological breakthroughs are about robotics, artificial intelligence, medicine and personal devices, not cars. But advancements in In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) – systems that allow the driver to use voice commands, touchscreens or physical controls to safely execute actions like playing music and making a phone call while driving – are transforming the auto industry by making our cars more efficient, more intelligent and safer than ever. Here are just a few examples making headlines around the world.

Car-to-car communication

Across the pond, car-to-car communication is set to revolutionise the roads. This kind of network will allow drivers to broadcast information like speed, brake status, even steering-wheel position through radar and ultrasound to other drivers within a few hundred metres. According to an article on the Technology Review, more than 5 million crashes occur on US roads alone each year, and over 30,000 of those end in fatalities. General Motors, the University of Michigan and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are all working on car-to-car networks to reduce that number. Hopefully, we can see similar efforts in the UK soon.

Digital wing mirror

Cambridge-based flexible electronics developer FlexEnable has recently showcased the first conformed LCD in an integrated automotive application. Their flexible display is incorporated into the car’s A-pillar and is paired with a camera attached to the wing mirror, eliminating blind spots completely and helping drivers stay safe: “Conformable, high-quality OLCDs bring a new degree of design freedom to automotive designers and will significantly enhance driver experience and safety,” says Chuck Milligan, CEO of FlexEnable. “Today’s car interiors are stylish, functional and comfortable and have curved surfaces everywhere except where constrained by rectangular, glass display panels. FlexEnable technology removes this constraint while providing the same display quality and reliability customers have come to expect from LCD displays.”

Automatic emergency braking

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Another tech innovation that will reduce road accidents is automatic emergency breaking (AEB). Research from the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) and the Australian NCAP found that cars fitted with AEB are 38 percent less likely to have a rear-end crash. Currently AEB is only fitted as a standard feature on 10 percent of new cars, is an option for about 25 percent and not available for retro-fitting on any, although these numbers are set to change: it’s estimated that 100 percent of new UK car fleets will be fitted with AEB by 2025. As this feature becomes more popular, not only will this reduce the number of road accidents, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says AEB will help save you money on your insurance premium as well.

From better communication between vehicles to increased visibility for the driver, advancements in ‘safety tech’ are using forward-thinking, innovative solutions to solve current problems on roads all around the world.

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