Car companies are trying to combat a continued rise in fatal pedestrian wrecks by developing technology to more easily recognize crash circumstances before they happen.
Data-connected vehicles and eventually, automated ones are expected to provide much safer roadways in the future, according to a panel of car safety and innovation officials at the Lifesavers Conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center on Saturday.
The panel at the highway safety conference's opening day was geared specifically at preventing crashes involving pedestrians, which make up 4 percent of all injury and fatal wrecks nationwide, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report.
For the fourth year in a row, the number of pedestrian deaths rose again in 2012 to 4,743, according to separate NHTSA data. In Tennessee, the Governor's Highway Safety Office reported 87 pedestrian deaths in 2013.
As new vehicles are built, panelists said, technology can be set with them that can better recognize the potential for crashes. With a firmware update, smartphones could submit a signal that could be recognized by vehicles and allow them to brake before pedestrians or cyclists are struck, said Chris Andersen, a connected program vehicle manager with the Federal Highway Administration.
"What we've trying to develop can be where individuals can be part of the new safety paradigm," Andersen said.
Vehicle cameras are also being developed to determine where pedestrians and cyclists are, where they will be, and how much brake needs to be applied to ensure a crash doesn't happen, said Frank Sgambati of Bosch engineering.
Eventually, panelists said, automated self-driven cars would make the roads substantially safer. But with a development timeline experts believe could be a decade or more, the panelists showed other technology that could become widespread more quickly.
"It's a lot of cutting-edge stuff, and we can expect a lot of it in the future," said Cara Hamann, a panelist with the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Center.
The conference is scheduled to continue through Tuesday.
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