Also known as intelligent cars, smart cars are vehicles that are equipped with system-driven forms of artificial intelligence. The underlying concept of the smart car is to free the driver from many of the mundane tasks associated with driving, making the act of driving more pleasant. Proponents of this type of technological innovation often note that by relieving the driver of at least part of the decision-making process, there is the possibility that the widespread use of intelligent cars would help to make roadways much safer than they are today.
The idea of a smart car has been around for a number of decades. Motion pictures and televisions shows have sometimes featured cars with highly developed artificial intelligence, and some that were even capable of independent thought and action. While the reality of the smart car is not quite as advanced as those theatrical portrayals, continuing efforts to make the most of existing technology has led to a number of car innovations that are current being tested.
Smart car development has already led to some innovations that are commonplace on many makes and models today. One example is the modern automatic emergency notification system, in which sensors on the vehicle connect with a central support organization and relay distress signals when there is a collision or some sort of mechanical failure. These same systems also allow for voice interaction between the driver and remote personnel who can alert authorities and thus provide assistance to an injured or otherwise infirm driver.
Many of the features envisioned for smart car production have to do with protecting the driver as well as other vehicles on the road. An autonomous cruise control feature activates automatically when road conditions are favorable for maintaining a consistent speed, thus minimizing the chances for traveling above the posted speed limit. Headlamps that automatically turn on when light conditions darken to a specific point are another example of smart innovation. A lane departure warning system that activates when ongoing traffic in the lane is present is another example of a feature that would help drivers avoid accidents and remain safe.
Efforts to create a smart car for mass production is ongoing, with some of the efforts spearheaded by government-approved organizations and commissions. Some private concerns are also involved in the continuing efforts to develop the ultimate smart car. Among the other features currently under development include the ability of the car to drive safely without the input of a human driver, and a monitoring system that would detect when a driver was intoxicated, in some sort of medical distress, or is otherwise rendered incapable of driving safely. There are also efforts to develop traffic sign recognition systems that would allow vehicles to detect and interpret traffic signals, signs posted along the side of the road.