A History of Driving Safety Innovations
Ever since 1886, when Karl Benz invented the first gasoline-fueled automobile, the industry has striven to make traveling by car ever safer with a panoply of inventions, innovations, laws, and public educational campaigns. Notable improvements include four-wheel hydraulic brakes, seat belts, child car seats, airbags, brake-assist devices, and electronic stability control — to name just a few — as well as campaigns and laws against drunk and distracted driving.
However, despite many successes, there is still a long way to go: In the first half of 2015, an estimated 16,225 people died in auto accidents, “an increase of about 8.1 percent as compared to the 15,014 fatalities that were reported to have occurred in the first half of 2014,” according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis.
The future looks to self-driving cars as a way to prevent the vast majority of road accidents. Many carmakers have been working on self-driving prototypes and have been testing them on roads in several states. And on January 14, 2016, at the Detroit Auto Show, United States Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that within six months he wants the department to draft comprehensive rules that will dictate how self-driving cars will be tested and regulated, Alex Davies wrote for Wired. The DOT will work with states, manufacturers, and others to create a model state policy for self-driving cars that will lead to a uniform national policy, Chris Ziegler wrote for The Verge.
[…] DOT is pushing for ways to permit legitimately driverless cars on the road — the kind that could be summoned to your doorstep without someone behind the wheel. That’s huge, especially in light of unusually restrictive rules that California just put in place that have ruffled Google’s feathers. The “demonstrated to provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than is now available” part is just as big, though — and depending on the level of proof DOT asks for, automakers could be many miles away from being able to scientifically demonstrate that safety, especially in light of a new Backchannel report that shows just how often today’s Google car test drivers must disengage the self-driving system.
Safety a Cooperative Effort
Thanks to technology and driving safety advocates, many lives have been saved and injuries prevented. Those groups include (but are not limited to) the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Governors Highway Safety Association, The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, The National Safety Council, SafeRoads.org, Traffic Safety Center, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Teens Against Distracted Driving, and the Motor Cycle Safety Foundation. We look to the future for even greater progress in making our roads safer.
The infographic timeline below presents the most important auto safety innovations that have paved a safer road for all of us.
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