Would you ride in a car with a brain?

What makes a smart car so smart?

For starters, a computer “brain.” Artificial intelligence and machine learning allow smart cars to make decisions for drivers and are the key to development of the fully autonomous vehicles that experts say are the future of transportation.

It will likely be a few decades before fully autonomous cars are common on American roadways. But smart car technology is already being installed on new cars and in just a few years will no longer be limited to mostly higher-end models, experts say.

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These Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) help drivers avoid crashes and take care of various tasks, sometimes without the driver having to do anything.

The systems use GPS, radar, cameras and other sensor technology to see danger more quickly than the human eye and react in time to stop an accident or to at least slow the vehicle enough to make a crash less serious.

Crash avoidance technologies are not new. Anti-lock brakes were introduced in passenger cars in the 1970s, traction control in the 1980s and electronic stability control in the 1990s, according to the National Safety Council.

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The NSC advocates the mandatory or voluntary addition of additional safety technology in vehicles.

Some of that is already occurring. A federal mandate requires that rear view visibility systems be on all new cars by May 2018. And manufacturers reached an agreement with the federal government to make automatic emergency braking a standard feature by September 2022, according to the NSC.



“The top four reasons for crashes are caused by human behavior or choices: alcohol, speed, fatigue and distraction, giving ADAS systems and automated vehicles the potential to reduce preventable crashes and deaths in an unprecedented way,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and chief executive of the National Safety Council, in testimony on Sept. 13 to a U.S. Senate subcommittee considering autonomous car legislation.

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The NSC website www.mycardoeswhat.org lists the ADAS now available on cars and trucks and how those technologies work. Among them are:

  • Backup camera and warning
  • Blind spot monitor
  • Side view camera
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Automatic reverse braking
  • Brake assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Automatic parallel parking
  • Parking sensors
  • Bicycle detection
  • Curve speed warning
  • Drowsiness alert
  • Electronic stability
  • Traction control
  • Forward collision warning
  • High speed alert
  • Left turn crash avoidance
  • Obstacle detection
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Rear cross traffic alert

U.S. Rep. Robert Latta, R-Bowling Green, sponsored the SELF DRIVE Act, which unanimously passed in the House of Representatives earlier this month and is now being considered by the U.S. Senate.

The goal of the bill is to encourage the safe testing, development and deployment of self-driving cars, according to a fact sheet released by his office.

“What we want to do is make sure that the best technology comes to the forefront and rises to the top,” Latta said.

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