Where is automotive safety heading?

The safety of vehicles has improved markedly in the past few decades - new cars are equipped with greater numbers of airbags year after year and structural frames continue to improve.

As a result, most of the major automakers continually put out five star rated ANCAP cars, many of which include additional innovative safety features such as lane monitoring, reversing cameras and collision detection systems.

Of course, improvements aren't going to slow down anytime soon, and automotive safety is set to advance significantly in the next few years.

Here are just a few of the safety technologies fleet managers will have to consider when purchasing new vehicles.

Environment scanning

This futuristic technology could be a game-changer when it comes to safety - but not inside the vehicle. By mounting cameras and sensors on the exterior of the car or truck, the vehicle is able to sense pedestrians and other cars.

Such technology could save lives if widely implemented, by noticing a potential accident before the driver. Last year, Volvo announced that they were working on sensor technology, using cameras to provide a 360 degree view of surroundings.

Connected vehicles

Using an array of technologies such as GPS and Wi-Fi (the same found in phones and computers) cars and trucks will be able to communicate locally. Basically, this means that vehicles notify drivers if another car is approaching in a blind spot.

In addition, vehicles will be able to send warnings to other cars on a motorway in the event of an accident, alerting other drivers to the danger. Such technologies are a precursor to fully autonomous vehicles, and can be found in vehicles from makers such as Mercedes and Tesla.

AR dashboards

Augmented reality isn't just a gimmick found on the latest smartphones and tablets - it's also an extremely useful technology that could improve driver safety.

Essentially transparent displays on the dashboard of a car, they can show the speedometer, fuel consumption and even GPS directions. The key is that they keep drivers' eyes on the road.

BMW has already started deploying such technologies in new models, with the displays able to show speed and other useful information.

These technologies may not be found in all new vehicles next year, but they're certainly on the way. Like crumple zones and airbags before them, they'll prove to be useful additions in the safety toolbelt of new vehicles - protecting drivers, passengers and pedestrians.