Cars increasingly roll off the assembly line with safety technology shown to prevent crashes.
But with the average U.S. car nearly 12 years old, most drivers aren't receiving the benefits of new collision-avoidance systems. A vehicle fleet can take decades to turn over, and no automaker offers drivers a way to upgrade their vehicles with such systems. Some companies are now trying to fill the void for customers growing used to much faster upgrade cycles.
For instance, Rand McNally, best known to consumers for its maps and atlases, is releasing a $400 tablet for drivers to attach to their dashboard. The device offers driving directions, plays videos and includes a collision-warning system. A camera in the tablet monitors the road ahead and will alert a driver of an impending crash.
"Our goal was to capture all of the goodness that's found in luxury car entertainment systems and provide it in a user-friendly, affordable package," said Rand McNally Chief Executive Stephen Fletcher.
"These high-end luxury cars are providing many different features and advances, including collision and lane-departure warnings. We wanted to capture all of that."
Garmin and Brand Motion both released similar devices in 2015. They record video and alert drivers when they stray from their lanes or are about to be in a crash. Brand Motion said it has sold several thousand since the November release.
A Silicon Valley startup, Navdy, is accepting preorders for a $500 dashboard device that projects directions and text messages onto the windshield. The idea is to keep a driver's eyes on the road rather than his or her smartphone.
"It's quite realistic people will start considering purchasing such devices to make things more safe," said Forrester analyst Frank Gillett. "We can expect to see a growing number of these types of offerings, and at some point they will be interesting and useful enough to attract people's attention."
He expects insurance companies to have an interest in the device, yet cautioned that retrofits are never as good as systems built into a vehicle.