Every minute, on average, at least one person dies in a crash. If you read this article from start to finish,
30 or more deaths will have occurred across the globe by the time you are done. Auto accidents
will also injure at least 10 million people this year, two or three million of them seriously.

All told, the hospital bills, damaged property, and other costs will add up to 1–3 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and  development. For the United States alone, the tally will amount to roughly US $200 billion. And, of course, thelosses that matter most are not even captured by these statistics,
because there’s no way to put a dollar value on them.
Engineers have been chipping away at these staggering numbers
for a long time. Air bags and seat belts save tens of thousands
of people a year. Supercomputers now let designers create
car frames and bodies that protect the people inside by
absorbing as much of the energy of a crash as possible. As a
result, the number of fatalities per million miles of vehicle travel
has decreased. But the ultimate solution, and the only one that
will save far more lives, limbs, and money, is to keep cars from
smashing into each other in the first place.
That is exactly what engineers in the United States, Europe,
and Japan are trying to do. They are applying advanced microprocessors,
radars, high-speed ICs, and signal-processing chips
and algorithms in R&D programs that mark an about-face in the
automotive industry: from safety systems that kick in after an accident
occurs, attempting to minimize injury and damage, to ones
that prevent collisions altogether.
The first collision-avoidance features are already on the
road, as pricey adaptive cruise control options on a small
40 group of luxury cars. Over the next few years, these systemswill grow more capable and more widely available, until they
become standard equipment on luxury vehicles. Meanwhile,
researchers will be bringing the first cooperative safety systems
to market. These will raise active safety technology to the next
level, enabling vehicles to communicate and coordinate responses
to avoid collisions. Note that to avoid liability claims in the event
of collisions between cars equipped with adaptive cruise control
systems, manufacturers of these systems and the car companies
that use them are careful not to refer to them as safety devices.
Instead, they are being marketed as driver aids, mere conveniences
made possible by new technologiesFurther in the future, developments by private research groups
and publicly funded entities such as the U.S. Department of
Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint
Program Office, and Japan’s Advanced Cruise-Assist Highway
System Research Association, may make driving a completely
automated experience. Communication among sensors and
processors embedded not only in vehicles but in roads, signs, and
guard rails are expected to let cars race along practically bumper
to bumper at speeds above 100 km/h while passengers snooze,
read, or watch television.

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