'Smart Car' Tech Encouraged in U.S.

ByABC News
July 19, 2000, 6:56 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, July 19 -- The federal government is challenging the autoindustry to step up efforts to develop smart vehicles that usetechnology to help drivers avoid accidents.

More than three-quarters of all accidents are to due to drivererror, according to the National Highway Traffic SafetyAdministration. Better technology would dramatically reduce thatnumber, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said today.

Smart technology high-tech cruise control, crash-avoidancesystems, night-vision enhancements already are available asadd-ons to some high-end vehicles.

Slater set a goal of 10 years for the auto industry to installthe technology in at least 10 percent of all passenger vehicles and25 percent of commercial vehicles sold in the United States.

Tech May Help Reduce Accidents

Smart technology means real possibilities not just forreducing injuries and fatalities from crashes, but eliminating themall together, Slater said. What it means for transportation inAmerica and around the world is literally something we cannotfathom.

Bob Lange, engineering director of the General Motors Corp.Safety Center, said Slaters goal for broadening smart technologyis reachable.

That probably is not unreasonable, and it may even be possibleto exceed that goal if we as manufacturers are able to make themaffordable, he said. We think there is consumer demand forthem.

Toyota, Ford, Mercedes and Jaguar already offer adaptivecruise control on some vehicles. It tracks the car ahead, slowingdown and speeding up automatically to maintain a safe distance invariable highway traffic.

Eaton Corp.s VORAD Vehicle Onboard Radar detects stationaryobjects through fog, rain, snow, darkness and smoke. It is beingused on some commercial trucks.

New Smart Options in Development

General Motors offers a night vision system as an option on itsDeVille Cadillacs that uses infrared technology to detect people oranimals in the darkness or past the glare of an oncoming carsheadlights. The images are projected in black and white on aTV-like small screen that is projected on the windshield.