The traffic accident you least want to be in is a collision with a car moving in a direction opposite to your own.
Even though such wrong-way collisions account for only about 3 percent of accidents on divided highways in the United States, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, they are 12 to 27 times as likely as other accidents to result in death. It makes sense to go to some trouble to prevent them.
Bosch, the German auto supplier, has done so with a software package that compares a car’s direction with a Web-based database of roads and quickly alerts the driver of wrong-way movement. It even goes so far as to stop the car, giving oncoming vehicles a bit more of a chance to get out of the way.
At the same time, the system alerts those oncoming cars using a cloud-based, anonymized system. It can activate roadside signage; even if such signage isn’t around, it can send an alert to drivers via their smart phones or car infotainment systems.
That’s critical because in many cases the driver who’s going the wrong way may be unresponsive to any warning. Studies have shown that such drivers are often impaired by disease, old age, or alcohol. Worst of all are the ones who go the wrong way on purpose.
According to Christain Jeschke, an engineer at Bosch, some 50 percent of all wrong-way drivers are suicidal. Watch him demonstrate the system in a test drive: