The Danger-Sensing Driver's Seat

A haptic car seat pokes you in the ribs when an accident looms

2 min read

Today’s carmakers boast of their new vehicles’ cocoonlike qualities, including the latest noise-reducing features and great shocks that smooth out those bumps on the road. Myriad warning alarms are designed to counteract the insular environment when there’s trouble, but Yale University engineers are looking for a more subtle approach to signaling: vibrating motors and movable cams that send signals straight from the seat back to your back.

Such a system could be particularly useful for warning you of cars in your blind spot—an area you can’t see with either the side-view or rearview mirrors. The blind spot is blamed for sideswipe accidents that occur by the hundreds of thousands every year. Today’s blind-spot monitors warn you by flashing a signal in the rearview mirror or on the car’s dashboard.

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Self-Driving Cars Work Better With Smart Roads

Intelligent infrastructure makes autonomous driving safer and less expensive

9 min read
A photograph shows a single car headed toward the viewer on the rightmost lane of a three-lane road that is bounded by grassy parkways, one side of which is planted with trees. In the foreground a black vertical pole is topped by a crossbeam bearing various instruments. 

This test unit, in a suburb of Shanghai, detects and tracks traffic merging from a side road onto a major road, using a camera, a lidar, a radar, a communication unit, and a computer.

Shaoshan Liu

Enormous efforts have been made in the past two decades to create a car that can use sensors and artificial intelligence to model its environment and plot a safe driving path. Yet even today the technology works well only in areas like campuses, which have limited roads to map and minimal traffic to master. It still can’t manage busy, unfamiliar, or unpredictable roads. For now, at least, there is only so much sensory power and intelligence that can go into a car.

To solve this problem, we must turn it around: We must put more of the smarts into the infrastructure—we must make the road smart.

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