'Clever cars to make future driving safer'

Sensors embedded in future vehicles could also let emergency services work out the severity of the crash and how many people were involved, they said.

The predictions came at a conference considering the changes ushered in by the spread of small, smart processors.

The growing number of on-board computers, they said, could also spell big changes for the way people drive, BBC News reported.

"The car is probably going to be the most compute-intensive possession that we will have," said Steve Wainwright, European manager at Freescale Semiconductor which makes many of the chips inside car control systems.

According to him, average cars have already 25 to 30 electronic control units onboard and high-end cars probably carry up to 80.

These tiny computers are in charge of many car systems such as stability control, power distribution, safety and many others. Increasingly, they are helping to augment a person's driving skill and that trend would only continue as technologies such as collision detection systems and radar become more commonplace, he said.

"All of us who feel we are better drivers now than we were 10 years ago, that's probably because we are getting more help then we realise," Wainwright was quoted as saying at the Future World Sympoisum organised by National Microelectronics Institute, UK.
Paul Burnley, an analyst from automotive market research firm SBD, said cars in the future would be among the first to react after a crash.

They might send data about their location and the number of occupants in a car to get the emergency services responding much more quickly.

"More advanced systems will be capable of sending data from distributed sensors in the car to the emergency services," he said.

Clever in-car systems would be essential as the world moves from petrol-driven cars to hybrid and electric vehicles, he said.

Wainwright believed that the growing unification of cars and computers had the potential to make driving safer and greener.

Already, he said, the US has set aside radio spectrum for car-to-car communication systems suggesting that the future will see more inter-vehicular chatter about road conditions. Europe is also considering which radio frequency to use for this communication.

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