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New safety tech promises great changes for motorists in future

A professor and traffic safety expert at one university calls the concept of accident-free cars "very hot" and says that the technology enabling them will be sufficiently advanced to allow such vehicles to begin operating on some roads and highways in the near foreseeable future.

Utterances concerning a specific timeframe and close prediction for when that might happen in New Jersey and other highly traveled states are customarily avoided by experts who are testing next-generation car safety systems and by the professional observers noting material developments in the field. Predictions range from "don't know exactly when" to a Toyota-issued statement of "soon.

Notwithstanding some variance in views concerning the date for the full-fledged "arrival" of new accident-avoidance systems, however, there is broad agreement that it is approaching with both dispatch and urgency.

Will it really change things? Will new systems bring about a noted decrease in car accidents and auto-related injuries? Will sophisticated technologies enabling a car to independently accelerate, brake, swerve and communicate with other vehicles on roadways ever be so fail-safe that design defects and product liability concerns are no longer issues for product manufacturers?

About the best answer forthcoming at the moment is, "We'll see." As has been widely reported, Google's self-driving cars are at an intermediate stage of development and already operating on roadways in several states. Product offerings of many car manufacturers already incorporate some accident-avoidance technologies, with engineers working feverishly on new advances.

It is notable, too, to mention the testing center at Toyota's Intelligent Transport System site in Japan. Safety engineers there are testing new systems involving high-tech sensors and transmitters in a facility that is as big as three baseball stadiums.

One thing is certain: With safety-enhancing features on the advance and being steadily rolled out by all major manufacturers, driving is certain to become a highly modified experience within a few short years.

Source: Chicago Sun Times, "Toyota tests cars that communicate with each other," Nov. 12, 2012

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