Zero casualties
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On the road to zero

If there is one area where technology can be the number one enabler, it is traffic safety. Already, cars and trucks are safer than ever before. Active and passive safety equipment such as seatbelts, airbags, ABS, ESC, blind spot detection, lane-keeping assist, emergency braking and a range of other advanced driver-assistance systems have been instrumental in reducing fatalities on the road and mitigating injuries from traffic accidents. Also contributing to this trend were the higher fitment rates of these systems, which have been driven by automaker initiatives, supplier innovations, EuroNCAP in Europe and changes in type approval legislation.

The total number of fatalities on European Union roads dropped 53% between 2001 and 2016, according to European Union statistics. But in recent years, the downward trend has halted. Hence, there is strong pressure to reduce casualties even further.

The European Commission notes that there have been no significant decreases in road fatalities since 2013. We believe that there is a clear roadmap for a zero-road-casualties world. It involves a combination of technology, infrastructure improvements, regulatory initiatives and other measures.

Total number of road fatalities

Source: European Commission, Impact Assessment General Safety Regulation

Predicted impact of the latest EU legislation on road safety (until 2038)

Source: European Commission, Impact Assessment General Safety Regulation

The number of fatalities in 2018 went down 1% from 2017, but the decrease in recent years is more significant when looking at per million kilometres driven

For every person deceased, about five more suffer serious injuries

Fatalities have decreased substantially for vehicle occupants, but less progress has been made for pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and the elderly

Technology is key enabler

European countries and automotive companies are committed to creating a transportation ecosystem with zero casualties by 2050. Many of the technologies underpinning this goal are in production and ever more sophisticated and effective safety systems are being developed, including promising new approaches like Human Body Models (virtual humans in a biomechanical sense) and more advanced virtual testing software and tools, as well as completely new protective technologies for driverless vehicles. But much more needs to be done and it is clear that progress on road safety requires a strong industry contribution coupled with policies that support and promote the development and deployment of safety technology both inside vehicles and in their surrounding infrastructure.

The common goals of more automation and, eventually, autonomous driving are having a huge impact on the development of new safety technology. Active and passive safety technologies must be part of an integrated approach. Sensors can warn of accidents about to occur, thereby setting off new exterior airbags that help to significantly reduce crash impact and accident rates. In-cabin monitoring technologies enable safer trips by making sure the driver is in good condition. Once partial or fully autonomous driving becomes a reality, new passenger seating positions will be enabled, which will require a reinvention of airbag and seatbelt technology.

Currently available driving-environment sensors recognise objects in the field of view of the vehicle. Tomorrow, hidden objects will also be recognised as a matter of course. Cooperative safety systems in the traffic infrastructure and on board of the vehicles could provide an even more detailed traffic map to enable collision avoidance alerts or automatic vehicle reactions. Large-scale deployment of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) are both a precondition for such applications and an enabler of further automation and autonomous driving functions.

Stakeholders need better data on the cause and effects of accidents, ideally EU-wide and with a comparable quality level. This would support the evaluation of existing safety measures and identification of further opportunities. The practical value of this data would be greatly improved by putting in place minimum quality standards across the European Union for the gathering of such non-personal data. Data generated by new technologies such as Event Data Recorder (EDR) or Data Storage Systems for Automated Driving (DSSAD) will contribute to quality and standardisation if appropriate strategies for data sharing and data protection are in place. Access should be free for science, industry and policy making.

Spreading knowledge and awareness

Car drivers will need to be made aware of the new safety features that are being introduced, to maximise usage. In the long term, this may not matter because cars will drive themselves. But in coming decades, the industry, working closely with regulatory bodies, needs to make sure that both active and passive safety systems are used to the full to mitigate accidents. This requires more education efforts from all industry participants - including automakers and suppliers - directed at car drivers and passengers. Driving licence requirements may need to be reviewed to take into account the rapid technological changes.

In developing markets outside the EU, minimum standards for required safety systems have to be raised. While ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) is a must-have in most parts of the world, ESC (Electronic Stability Control) isn’t, and the European supplier community believes that making more of these technologies mandatory can greatly reduce the number of road accidents. Also, suppliers expect continued demand in the long-term for the use and development of traditional safety systems such as seatbelts and airbags. In fact, automated and autonomous driving is triggering a rethink and reinvention of traditional technologies in reaction to the change in seating positions. The European supplier industry, as the premier source of high-quality technologies, aims to continue to be a dominant provider of these kinds of systems.

The big mobility trends now transforming the industry are set to boost safety on the road. Highly automated and full autonomous cars will be designed to be safer than those driven by human drivers today. Machine learning, more sophisticated algorithms, improved sensor systems and active safety technologies in cars will see to that.

Policy makers need to actively engage with industry on safety concerns and possible solutions that can be deployed both in-vehicle and within the surrounding infrastructure to protect all road users. In the emerging traffic ecosystem, cars and trucks will coexist with pedestrians, including senior citizens, two- and three-wheelers, e-bikes and other modes of transportation that are set to gain in importance in coming years.

Actions to help realise zero road casualties

Investing in research and innovation to deliver technology solutions which impact positively on road safety. CLEPA awards excellence in safety in its annual Innovation Awards.

Developing safety technologies that are adapted to the new realities of automated and autonomous driving by integrating active and passive safety approaches.

Improving the human-vehicle-interface communication to facilitate adequate use of safety solutions.

Raising awareness and promoting use of safety technologies amongst road users, public authorities and other stakeholders.

Contributing to improving the quality and availability of non-personal accident data across the EU to facilitate research and deployment of effective safety technology.

Supporting an integrated, inclusive approach to road safety in all EU member states.

Promoting a standardised approach to safety requirements and standardised testing, particularly in the framework of evolving interior configurations due to the development of autonomous modes.

Calling on regulators to help bring about an integrated traffic infrastructure that benefits all stakeholders in society.

Policy priorities for safer mobility

Encourage the adoption of type approval standards that make cars as safe as possible using technology that is available today, or is known to be emerging in the near future.

A European effort to improve the quality and availability of non-personal accident data from across the member states of the EU, accessible free of charge for authorities, academia and industrial research.

Jointly with manufacturers and suppliers, development of test methods and evaluation procedures to assess effectiveness of safety measures.

Promotion of a cross-sector approach to integrating safety solutions, benefitting all, particularly the vulnerable road users.

Realise the infrastructure improvements needed for enhanced road safety, including deployment of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS).

Funding for research and innovation for the development of safety technologies as well as testing, simulation, naturalistic driving and accident studies via machine learning systems of automated passenger and commercial vehicles.