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How Apple and Google may revolutionize safety in cars

Apple and Google have more to do with the future of car safety than the famed automaker Volvo, according to a recently completed survey.
Posted: May 10, 2013 - 9:23PM
Author: Don Bain

The survey by found 40.8 percent of respondents placed more faith in the computer and search engine companies than the 19.7 percent who looked to Volvo for automotive safety.

Despite the known distractions of smartphone use in cars, a plurality of respondents expect Silicon Valley to contribute more to the future of road safety than automakers, by and large.

This is also a subject most teen drivers agree with. In a story on teen driving, instruction and attitudes, parents believe their kids need better training to drive, while the teens themselves think better technology is the answer.

What evidence exists for this point of view?
Just this week Elon Musk was reported to be talking to Google about their autonomous car tech, even though it may well be years before any such technology.

Google has logged more miles on their self-driving vehicle technology than anyone else and is considered the authority on the systems that will take the human error out of cars.

Meanwhile, Road & Track has posted a list of the Top 10 Auto Apps for the iPhone, which includes DriveScribe, an app that blocks texting and monitors teen driving to the extent of even sending alerts to parents if unsafe behavior is detected. It functions as a black box recording speeds but also has a positive reinforcement aspect rewarding safe driving with points redeemable for gift cards.

Admittedly, third parties develop apps like this, but Apple enables it to educate drivers and presumably save lives via their products.

Another such is RepairPal, an app that helps you identify repair costs, find nearby mechanics, rate their reliability and thus help you maintain a safer vehicle to drive. Whether it’s a needed battery or a sensor replacement the app provides an estimate based on both dealerships and private shops, a breakdown of parts and labor costs, and red flags you should be aware of on top of recommending and rating mechanics. Furthermore it can notify your roadside assistance or automaker's helpline if needed.

Automotive breakdowns in the wrong place can endanger not only you, but also others on the highway.

Then there’s helpful accessories like Beat The Traffic, which helps to relieve and keep you out of highway gridlock that makes tempers flare while both contributing to and resulting from accidents.

The argument for the automakers
Google did not develop the technology used in their autonomous cars – they simply took the radar and sonar-based sensors that provide proximity and blind spot alerts, parking assistance and adaptive cruise control, along with cameras and write software to make a vehicle see its location and orientation and react to it. Apple could contribute to the cause, but in what way defies prediction.

The automakers and supporting suppliers have developed these technologies from their original military applications in most cases. Notably Ford has developed these technologies on their own finding cheaper ways to add such advanced systems to vehicle in lower price ranges.
Even Lexus is pairing such tech systems to reduce the cost of the latest tech in their vehicles.

Our conclusion
Apple and Google are working to make cars safer or at least enable us to drive more safely in more roadworthy vehicles. They will continue to do this until the ultimate arrival of self-driving cars.

In the foreseeable future the automakers, working with the NHTSA and IIHS, will continue to further car safety until Apple, Google and Tesla make the autonomous or self-driving car a reality.