Car tech: Taking drivers' helpers for a spin

Think your spouse is a back-seat driver? Check out some of these automated features.

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Future features

NADA's Caudill says other advancements will involve facial recognition and monitoring the health of the driver. For its part, GM is already testing these types of features, Capp says. One of the newest 2010 sensors involves the monitoring of the oxygen and breathing levels of the driver, Caudill says. "It also monitors if the head starts to dip, fall in a way that indicates fatigue."

Edmunds' Austria says GPS technology will allow new forms of robotic control. In the future, your vehicle may adapt to changing road geometry such as curves and hills through interaction of the GPS data and your vehicle's Driver Assist System, says Austria. For example, if you are driving too fast for an approaching decreasing-radius turn, your future vehicle will receive detailed map data from the GPS satellites. "Your car then gives you braking assist, cuts maximum throttle input and the yaw control is heightened to help avoid a spin."

In the end, technology assists have not only improved vehicle operation, but could even improve the way we drive. "The technology is designed to save lives and it does this," Caudill says. "It either helps prevent accidents or, in the worst case, helps save lives after the accident has occurred." Another plus, he says, is that technology like LDW, with its audible alert, makes people more aware of how they drive.

But in the end, Caudill adds, "We, as a collective industry, need to ensure drivers are paying attention to driving instead of checking their BlackBerrys, e-mail and other forms of distraction. . . in no way are [the technology assists] to be used as a crutch for poor driving habits."

John Brandon is a veteran of the computing industry, having worked as an IT manager for 10 years and a tech journalist for another 10. He has written more than 2,500 feature articles and is a regular contributor to Computerworld.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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