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Car sensors

Posted: February 4, 2014 4:38 p.m.
Updated: February 5, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Automakers across the United States and around the world have come up in recent years with innumerable new features -- “bells and whistles” is the popular name for them -- which entice buyers and make driving more pleasurable and convenient. Heated seats and steering wheels are great for those cold mornings; keyless remote entry devices make keys almost obsolete; and navigation systems take the guesswork out of getting to an unknown location.

But a device that could literally change the driving experience is now being touted by the government -- that’s the only thing that gives us pause -- and could drastically reduce the number of accidents on the road. Under the proposal, cars would be outfitted with radio beacons which would continually transmit the position of that car; other vehicles on the road would have similar devices doing the same thing, and the computers in those vehicles would sense a collision before it occurred, alerting the drivers in the process.

Automakers have been working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the concept; the NHTSA estimates that up to 80 percent of collisions that don’t involve drunk drivers or mechanical failure could be eliminated. There is already similar technology installed in some cars, such as speed control devices which automatically brake a car when it gets too close to another one. This would obviously take that a step further. It sounds like a promising system that is not far from being a reality, and it could save thousands of lives.

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