Last week I was invited to address the annual convention of the Florida Association of Computer Users Group at Club Med in Port St. Lucie.
The topic the president of the club, Sam Wexler, asked me to speak on was what new technology was there that would allow drivers in their 70s, 80s and beyond to continue driving their cars safely.
Think of the technological improvements that have been made since the introduction of the first practical, mass-production car, the Model T Ford. That car had zero options and accessories, and very few older people would be physically capable of regularly driving a Model T Ford today.
Today we take power steering, power brakes, and automatic transmission for granted, as well as power windows, door locks, seat belts, air-conditioning, air bags, tilt-steering wheels and cruise controls. Technology we already have has added many years to the driving lives of seniors.
Here are some of them:
Blind Spot Monitor. This uses sub-millimeter radar to monitor those blind spots that exist on all cars. When you turn on your turn signals, this lights up warning indicators on your side view mirrors to tell you when there's a car you cannot see.
Rear Cross Traffic Alert. This uses the same radar to tell you if another car is approaching as you are backing out of your parking place or your home driveway. If it detects an imminent collision, a warning will sound and the interior rearview mirror lights up to further alert the driver.
Pre-collision System. This uses the same radar to predict and brace for collisions before impact. When the system detects an obstruction and determines a high possibility of collision, it increases the braking force when the driver hits the brakes. If it determines the collision is unavoidable, the pre-crash brake is activated to decrease the impact speed while the seatbelt retracts to restrain the driver, reducing injury.
Anti-Lock Brake System. This helps prevent brakes from locking. The system monitors the speed of each wheel to detect locking. When it detects sudden braking, it will release braking pressure for a moment and then provide optimum braking pressure to each wheel. By repeating this process in a short period of time, it enhances steering control during sudden stops and helps improve the ability of stopping the vehicle.
Brake Assist. Studies show that nearly half of all drivers do not step on the brake quickly and strongly enough to stop the vehicle in case of an emergency. When Brake Assist detects an attempted panic stop, it supports drivers by strengthening the power and send additional pressure to the brake.
Vehicle Stability Control. Helps prevent wheels from slipping sideways when cornering or sudden steering. This system helps prevent side skids and stabilizes the vehicle while turning on a curve. When the vehicle senses a loss of traction or a slip, braking is automatically applied to all wheels and engine power is reduced to help secure the safety of the vehicle.
Traction Control. When you are starting the vehicle or accelerating on a wet surface, this helps prevent the loss of control from wheel spin by continually monitoring the condition between the tires and the surface of the road. When it detects wheel spin, the system applies brakes or slows down the engine to regulate spinning and ensuring proper contact of tires.
Park Assist. Ultrasonic rear parking sensors mounted across the rear bumper can help drivers to be more aware of obstacles out of their range of vision when reversing. By listening to the beeping, you'll know if you are getting too close to the object behind you.
Dynamic Laser Cruise Control. This system is designed to help control the distance between the vehicle and the traveling vehicle ahead based on the driving lanes, the vehicle traveling ahead and vehicle speed.
Automatic High beam. If you have your high beams on, the headlights will lower automatically when encountering vehicles coming from the opposite direction.
Rain-sensing windshield wipers. These can activate as soon as rain is detected, and the sensitivity can be adjusted to the driver's liking. Cruise control will also automatically disengage when rain is detected.
Safety Connect. Similar to GM's OnStar System, it has features like the automatic collision notification, emergency assistance button, emergency roadside assistance and stolen vehicle notification. With automatic collision, where there is airbag deployment or a severe rear-end collision, the response center will be automatically notified. The agent will attempt to speak with the vehicle's occupants and will advise local emergency services of the situation, requesting dispatch of emergency services to the vehicle's location if necessary. The emergency assistance button, is used to connect to the response center when needed, and the roadside assistance is when the response center can help if you run out of gas, get a flat, need a jump start or require a tow truck. Stolen vehicle notification allows the response center to assist authorities in locating a stolen vehicle using GPS, once a police report is filed and the center is notified.
Smart Stop Technology. This new system overrides manual operation when both the accelerator and brake pads are pressed simultaneously, so if the car begins to accelerate on its own, you can kill the engine by simultaneously depressing the brake.
Electronic Brake-force Distribution. This system uses sensors to monitor the condition of the road and the vehicle's weight distribution to determine where the most brake force is necessary. It automatically increases or decreases force accordingly.
Advanced Airbag Systems. This technology tailors airbag deployment to the severity of the crash, the size and posture of the vehicle occupant, belt usage and how close that person is to the actual airbag. Based on this information, the airbag is deployed at either a high force level, a less forceful level or not at all.
Backup Camera. When the vehicle is put into reverse, a rear-facing camera activates and the view directly behind and to the sides of the vehicle is displayed on a monitor to help guide the vehicle in reverse.
All this technology is available now in many affordable cars. Investigate what is available before you make a purchase decision.
Earl Stewart is the owner and general manager of Earl Stewart Toyota in North Palm Beach. The dealership is located at 1215 N. Federal Highway in Lake Park. Contact him at www.earlstewarttoyota.com, call (561) 358-1474, fax (561) 658-0746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to him on Seaview AM 960, FM 95.9 and FM 106.9, which can be streamed at www.SeaviewRadio.com every Saturday morning between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.