Nobody, save for perhaps stunt drivers, likes to crash. Even if you're lucky enough to escape injury, accidents invariably mean months of insurance nightmare, dozens of phone calls to people you dislike conversing with, considerable expense and almost certainly time off the road.

General consensus then is that crashing is something best avoided. The latest luxury cars can virtually do this for you, with systems such as radar-guided cruise control allowing the car to constantly maintain a safe distance from the car in front, or emergency braking systems such as those offered by Volvo that brakes automatically should an obstruction be detected.

The downside to this impressive technology is cost. The top systems run from the hundreds into the thousands of dollars, which makes them the preserve of more expensive cars. Now, thanks to the work of Sazzadur Chowdhury, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Windsor, Ontario, that cost could come down.

Chowdhury's collision avoidance technology could cost as little as $200 and weighs less, too. This would make it perfect for cars at the lower end of the market, and continues a trend of high-end tech eventually finding its way into the most basic of cars, just as ABS, traction and stability control, climate control and many more have in the past.

The new technology has been developed under the Auto21 network, an automotive research group spread across several Canadian universities. Auto21 CEO Peter Frise says "The idea is to make the safest possible car that uses the least amount of energy and can be built at the lowest possible cost".

Chowdhury's device has already started attracting attention from some big names - Toyota North America and Magna Electronics are already interested. Chowdhury and Auto21 are hoping that a major manufacturer will buy the rights to the device and set up production locally, benefitting the local economy.

The benefit for consumers though is much wider, and it may not be long before even the cheapest of new vehicles can assist in reducing the likelihood of an accident.

[The Montreal Gazette]