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  • Writer's pictureSteven Kastelic

Why Smart Technology is the Future of Road Safety

IMAGE: Image Credit: Pixabay

There is always an incentive to make our roads safer. This is largely for the general good of the public, and the wellbeing of individual drivers. However, it’s also true at an industry level. Robust shipping fleets are still the beating heart of countless modern companies, and across those companies, safety is vital. Our post about ‘Safety as a Pathway to Profitability’ dug into this idea, asserting that accidents are among the biggest setbacks in transportation industries. Unsafe driving conditions, in addition to putting drivers at risk, can lead to immense costs.

Those costs can come in a number of different forms. First and foremost, they relate to damaged vehicles, damaged goods, and any medical bills that may result from injuries. Beyond these, they can also come in the form of secondary costs, such as hiked-up insurance rates, PR efforts, and any time or contributing workforce lost as a result of the accident. Furthermore, on top of these concerns, companies today need to be wary of the legal fees that can result from an accident. Often enough, when incidents involving company vehicles occur on the road, attorneys seek resolution in the form of nuclear payouts (which are loosely defined as disproportionate penalties, sometimes in excess of $10 million). They go after a perceived lack of training, or inadequate risk mitigation, seeking to hold the company itself responsible for the accident. Considering all of these factors together, it's no wonder road safety is of significant financial concern to modern businesses.

For a number of years though, there wasn’t all that much to do about the need to bring about greater road safety. While general road and vehicle maintenance and responsible management from fleet operators has always mattered, the nature and condition of our roads and the vehicles on them was unchanged for a while. In more recent years though, this has not been the case. Various smart technologies have emerged and demonstrated significant potential to improve road safety.

These are a few of the specific reasons these smart technologies are now taking the lead in making driving conditions safer.

The Tech Has Limitless Scale

When we think of smarter roads and vehicles, we’re largely thinking about the Internet of Things (IoT). This is a massive, expanding web of interconnected sensors and systems that automates communication and data sharing to bring about new levels of safety and efficiency. The core of the IoT though is the printed circuit boards that make it feasible to build all of those sensors and systems.

Altium’s post on consumer and industrial demand clarifies how the need for smaller wireless devices has driven innovation in PCB design in recent years. Those smaller wireless devices include Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) applications, IoT applications, and automated advanced driver-assistance systems — all of which require cleverly designed PCBs with small but powerful antennae. In short, PCBs have been designed with minimalist antenna designs that are just as powerful. And now that these kinds of electronics have been designed, the foundation is in place for virtually innumerable applications. This is why we expect smart tech on roads and in cars to continue to expand.

Smart Vehicles Mitigate Driver Error

Given the availability and scalability of the technology, we can also explore some of its specific benefits. And where cars are concerned, we can see quite clearly that IoT capability and smart technology mitigate driver error, and thus make the roads safer. Just two years ago, ZDNet forecasted a 94% reduction in road fatalities in a world in which autonomous vehicles become the norm. That’s something of a hypothetical, because we’re a long way away from autonomous vehicles dominating the roads. However, it speaks to the extent to which automation technology and IoT communication can help minimize driver error and reduce road risk. Cars and trucks equipped to recognize conditions, communicate with each other, and interact with surrounding technological networks can keep drivers safe.

At the same time however, we'd stress that fully autonomous vehicles are not necessarily the answer. While specific individual tasks can become autonomous, the safest conditions will come about when driver control is aided by – rather than replaced by – AI. This in fact is where BlyncSync comes into play. As an example, our piece on "Managing Driver Fatigue" conveyed how some BlyncSync devices and software can help drivers to gain a better sense of their own fatigue and safety levels before embarking on the road. Through an application like this, we see a partnership of automation and driver control: The devices and software automatically monitor a driver's suitability to the road, and the driver reacts accordingly.

These kinds of innovations and methods, coupled with the actual car and road features we are covering in this piece, will ultimately result in the safest possible road conditions.

Smart Roads Can Sense and Respond to Accidents

The idea of “smart roads” is sometimes taken as a different way of phrasing “smart cars.” The truth, however, is that roads themselves are being made smarter as well. For the most part this is happening in cities, where various sensors are being deployed to recognize conditions and redirect traffic as needed. Additionally, we may soon be seeing intelligent highways.

NBC covered smart road technology in a fascinating report that likened near-future highways to “crash-sensing touchpads.” Basically, WiFi-fitted concrete slabs are being built into stretches of highway to sense road activity for a variety of purposes. Most importantly, these slabs will be able to recognize when vehicles veer off the road, and will automatically alert emergency services, reducing the time it takes for an injured driver to receive help. Additionally, the slabs are meant to communicate with drivers, sending updates about traffic or hazards directly to people’s mobile phones or in-car mobile systems.

Fleet Performance Can Be Optimized

Smart technology is also beginning to play a very important role specifically in road shipping fleets. Even though there aren’t all too many companies using partially automated fleet vehicles just yet, there are various IoT-integrated systems that can be put in place in order to optimize performance and minimize risk to drivers. There are numerous individual features involved in smart fleet management. By and large though, a variety of sensors and systems can now monitor trucks’ performance on a continual basis, while communicating with a company system and integrating GPS. This means that everything from optimal routes, to changing conditions, to scheduling is all being tracked at the same time. It also means that driver performance and behavior can be monitored in ways that can lead to better instruction. For example, vehicle sensors can tell if a driver is starting and stopping erratically, consistently driving over the speed limit, or operating the vehicle in a manner that suggested drowsiness or impairment. In some cases, the driver can be alerted in real time to these dangers so that behavior is corrected on the go. This can be done in part through some of the same BlyncSync features we mentioned above, regarding the monitoring of driver fitness. As laid out by our COO Steven Kastelic, BlyncSync provides solutions that focus on the root cause of truck accidents, fatigue and distraction, by using predictive data to help fleet drivers plan their drives before embarking on the road. More regularly, the information is simply compiled so as to accurately report on drivers and help to shape any additional training or risk mitigation that may be necessary. Given all of these benefits, and the clear capacity of the technology to expand even further, it’s clear that smart tech is the future of road safety.

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By Unice Rogers

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