A piece of news I noticed last week was a release from Kia. It built upon their showing at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas during January which showcased their autonomous car technology.
Kia wants to have semi-autonomous cars on the road by 2020 and fully autonomous models by 2030. While that is a long way off, what is nearer is new tech that monitors what the driver is doing. One potential beneficiary of this technology is the cyclist.
How many times have you been nearly knocked off by a driver who wasn’t paying attention? How many times have you see a car swerve or brake suddenly because the driver fiddled with their stereo or talked on their phone? That’s what this new tech seeks to address.
Showcased in the Kia Soul EV, Drive Wise encapsulates a series of technologies that includes driver monitoring. Sensors within the car can monitor the driver’s eyes to make sure they are looking at the road. If they deviate, the autonomous brain of the car takes control and brings the car to a safe stop. It’s the technology every cyclist has been waiting for!
There is no doubt that distracted driving is a real issue on our roads. It isn’t just cyclists who are at risk but every road user. While using a mobile phone while driving is technically illegal, without any police on the road, it isn’t enforced. Even down here in sleepy Cornwall, I see at least one driver on the phone when I’m out on the bike. When I used to commute along the M4 to work, there were hundreds of them.
With a distinct lack of roads policing and a wilful ignorance on the part of some drivers, anything that makes the roads safer for all of us is a good thing.
Kia Drive Wise
As well as driver monitoring, the Drive Wise program will develop Preceding Vehicle Following (PVF), Urban Autonomous Driving, Highway Autonomous Driving (HAD) and full vehicle autonomy over the next 15 years. The Korean automaker has invested $2 billion in their research, so they aren’t being shy about wanting things to change.
Preceding Vehicle Following technology will allow a driver to drive a route with poor, or no, road markings and navigate autonomously to the destination. The car will use GPS navigation and sensors to follow the road, overtake other traffic and get you there on time.
Urban Autonomous Driving uses the same system with live traffic data to manage your journey over busy roads. It can take over driving in traffic and help avoid traffic altogether.
Highway Autonomous Driving will use lane-keeping technology, autonomous braking, dynamic cruise control and sensors to help with motorway driving. The system can already drive at speeds appropriate to traffic, change or keep lanes, overtake and navigate.
Kia isn’t the only car manufacturer to be investing in autonomous technologies. However, it is the first that we know of to develop driver monitoring. We hope it works as it could spell the end of one of the biggest perils of cycling in Britain!