A new combination of safety features is already delivering alerts to millions of vehicles, improving the safety of everything from first responders to delivery vans in your neighborhood. The manufacturer expects automakers around the world to add the feature to their vehicles soon.
The system combines digital alerts with advanced emergency lighting to warn vehicles when they approach stranded vehicles, accidents and emergency vehicles. Any vehicle using Apple, Google and Waze navigation apps can get digital alerts today. Millions of vehicles from Jeep, Ram, Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and Alfa Romeo have been receiving the digital alerts since last year.
Now Tesla has signed a contract to adopt the system in all its vehicles around the world. Those millions of vehicles will get an over the air software update to make their hazard lights more effective and receive digital alerts of hazards ahead.
Hundreds of people die every year in the U.S. because of collisions with vehicles on the side of the road.
“Tesla’s decision has moved other automakers along,” said Stephen Powers, COO of Emergency Safety Solutions, which developed the advanced hazard lights that comprise half the Hazard Enhanced Location Protocol, or HELP system.
“The system provides 12 to 15 seconds of warning about the upcoming incident — that’s a quarter of a mile at 60 mph,” Powers said.
HELP combines advanced hazard lights ESS developed with digital alerts from HAAS Alert, the digital alert system Stellantis put on the road last year.
The visible alerts use reworked hazard lights that flash in a speed and pattern research has shown to be more effective than traditional hazard lights, which went essentially unchanged since they debuted in 1951. ESS also has updates to make the flasher patterns police, fire and other emergency vehicles use more effective. The changes include flashing the lights a steady five times a second, and flashing all the lights together.
“Having lots of lights flashing at different times is disorienting,” Powers said. “Outlining helps people recognize and locate the obstacle.”
The digital alerts go to HAAS’s Safety Cloud, which is hosted by Amazon Web Services. It can transmit the alerts to automakers’ individual clouds and the third-party navigation systems.
The digital signals also include alerts when approaching an emergency vehicle with its flashers activated.
“This is a first,” Powers said, “having vehicles from one manufacturer send messages to all others. The Safety Cloud can connect to them all.”
The company is talking to automakers from the U.S., Europe and Japan about adding the system.
“We can roll out the pieces of the system in the order an automaker prefers,” Powers said.
Companies that run fleets of long-haul and delivery vehicles are interested in adapting the feature to alert drivers to trucks parked for breaks or waiting for space at loading docks.
ESS is working with an aftermarket company to provide kits that can update existing vehicles. A fleet of oil haulers in West Texas is currently Beta-testing that system.
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“We expect to have the system for semis and delivery vehicles available for sale in the fourth quarter,” Powers said. There’s a lot of interest from commercial fleets to add the system.
City, state and federal fleets are also candidates for the system. The Infrastructure Act includes funding to help states and cities prevent roadside deaths, many of which are caused buy collisions with disabled vehicles.
The lights and alerts could also be configured to identify delivery vehicles at night in crowded neighborhoods by adapting the light pattern so it wouldn’t disturb residents but would catch the eye of oncoming drivers.
Information about upcoming collisions could also prevent the massive highway pileups that happen when vehicles suddenly encounter hazardous conditions.
“When there’s bad weather ahead, like slick roads — that’s when you need alerts the most,” ESS CEO Tom Metzger said. “If we get that information to oncoming vehicles before they see it, we may be able to avoid the huge, tragic accidents.
The digital system is programmed to alert vehicles that are approaching the disabled or emergency vehicle on a direct or intersecting path. For instance, a driver on a service road would not receive alerts from the neighboring highway.
Contact Mark Phelan: 313-222-6731 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan. Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletter. Become a subscriber.