Enhance your car dashboard with a “time to (maybe) crash” / imminent collision indicator. Safety first!


Cars have a lot of instruments. These typically indicate the car’s speed, the current gear, and various other qualities of debatable utility. Nowadays, cars have all sorts of additional sensors (potentially including LIDAR, cameras, GPS, etc…), but the dashboard instrument panel has not changed substantially since about 1950.


Let’s add a new indicator to the dashboard: a “time until a collision with the object directly in front of the car” indicator. This indicator would only use a simple rangefinder to make its calculation, and it would assume that whatever is directly in front of your car is not moving (e.g. it’s a wall or a car that just braked suddenly).

As an example, suppose that a a car is going 60 miles per hour (or 88 feet/second), and is 200 feet behind another car going the same speed. The “worst-case collision time” is that the car in front immediately stops (maybe a meteor hits it or something), so the dashboard indicator would read “2.27 seconds until collision” (200 feet / 88 feet/second = 2.27 seconds). Figure 1 illustrates what a similar readout might look like.

Fig. 1: One surprising conclusion of this dashboard is that there is practically no time to react when driving at highway speeds: even 200 feet of warning gives a driver less than 2.5 seconds to react at the relatively leisurely speed of 60 MPH.

The indicator could get progressively more alarming as the user had less time to react, as shown in Figure 2.

Fig. 2: The “time until collision” indicator should become more eye-catching as the time decreases.


This is probably not a terrible idea, and could legitimately be a useful addition to a car dashboard.

PROS: Probably actually useful!

CONS: Drivers might pay excessive attention to this indicator and, while doing so, crash into the very object that the indicator is warning them about.