The rise of safety innovations in intelligent mobility

In the years since Karl Benz invented the modern auto-mobile in 1885, energy and safety have emerged as two long-standing themes, central to the automotive industry.1 With respect to energy, the increasingly urgent challenge has been to reduce the impact of CO2 emissions on the environment and to ameliorate resource depletion, either by using less fuel or through alternative energy sources. We have seen the emergence of a series of “next generation” vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel cell vehicles, that embody the pursuit of these goals.

However, to associate next-generation vehicles only with such energy-related innovations is to understate the developments underway with regard to mobility. Safety innovations are also an essential and perhaps equally rich avenue of development, important for obvious reasons, but increasingly with a vital role to play in the future direction of vehicles and the systems that may surround their use.

The widely acknowledged challenge for vehicle safety has long been to prevent or reduce the potential severity of casualties. The two major categories of safety-related efforts today include passive and active, with the former relatively mature both as a concept and technology. Active safety, however, is still in its infancy, with its potential emerging in the context of data acquisition and processing advances. In the future, vehicle safety will likely fuse with information communication technologies (ICT) into a system category that can be described as info-safety2—with a larger influence on shaping an information-connected mobility. Through ICT, safety technologies can have a broad impact on multiple aspects of the automotive industry, including the need to use less energy.

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