New cars get self-driving safety features

AUTONOMOUS vehicles get all the headlines, but automakers are gradually adding advanced electronic safety features to human-driven cars as they step toward a world of self-driving vehicles.

Cutting-edge devices to go mainstream as costs fall: Many of the new features repurpose cameras and radar that already are in cars for automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection and other safety devices.

The companies are also keeping a closer watch on drivers to make sure they’re paying attention.

Here are new safety devices that are showing up in vehicles:

STAY FOCUSED:

A company called NVIDIA is using artificial intelligence and cameras to sense where a driver is looking and focus sensors everywhere else.

If a pedestrian or another vehicle appears where the driver isn’t looking, the system will intervene, either sounding a warning or by stopping the car from moving, says Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive business for the California, company.

NVIDIA has a contract with Volkswagen to deploy the system in the next two years. Other automakers are likely to follow.

LOOKING BACKWARD:

When a driver activates a turn signal, an eight-inch screen behind the steering wheel on Hyundai’s new Nexo hydrogen fuel cell vehicle shows everything on that side of the car plus what’s directly behind it.

The system uses existing cameras to let drivers see without turning their heads.

Other cars have similar technology.

SEEING SIGNS:

Mercedes’ new S-Class cars have advanced navigation and global mapping, and cameras that read speed-limit signs.

These enable the car’s computers to warn drivers of the speed limit or keep them from exceeding it.

The system also recognizes upcoming construction zones, curves or roundabouts, and can slow the car ahead of when a driver would. Volvo has a similar system.

LASER GUIDED:

Smaller versions of those spinning 360-degree mechanical laser sensors that sit atop self-driving cars are coming to mainstream vehicles.

The lasers, called Lidar for Light Detection and Ranging, can see far-off objects in the dark, in bad weather, and in great detail.

— Wheels24.

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