Technology Advances in Road Traffic Safety

By Dave Conway IMS & Road Safety Manager, FM Conway Ltd - 04.11.2020 - Guest Article

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As the UK, and much of Europe moves back into a lockdown to address the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is probably timely to remember one of the largest causes of death and life-changing injuries worldwide - Road Traffic Crashes. Just as science and technology are racing to find vaccines and cures for the virus, there is a race to find technology-led solutions to some of the road safety issues.

Technology for a safe road

It has long been accepted that the single most significant factor in road traffic safety is the driver. Numerous advances in vehicle and highway safety features has resulted in significant mitigation of the effects of poor Road Traffic Safety but these alone will not prevent death or serious injuries occurring against a backdrop of increasing vehicle, and driver numbers.

We have seen the introduction of a plethora of driver aids designed to assist the driver, sometimes even take over from the driver, to prevent crashes. ABS (Anti-lock Braking Systems) vastly improving a vehicle’s ability to stop, regardless of driver competence, was a huge step forward, and now we see the mandatory fitment of AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) to all cars across Europe… almost removing the need for the driver to react to the hazard.

Next year sees an innovation in the UK, allowing trials of cars with LKA (Lane Keep Assist) combined with Intelligent Cruise Control, to fully control vehicles in a single lane on a motorway. Exciting, or frightening, times for sure.

"Next year sees an innovation in the UK, allowing trials of cars with LKA (Lane Keep Assist) combined with Intelligent Cruise Control, to fully control vehicles in a single lane on a motorway.

Exciting, or frightening, times for sure."

Driverless vehicles will have the potential to remove the great unreliable factor from the equation, but this will only be achieved if we can be sure that the driverless vehicle has the moral prioritizations in place that align with the desires of society, and there is currently a great deal of work being undertaken by bodies such as BSI, ISO and the ITU to develop standards relating to both the engineering and ethical issues around autonomous vehicles.

However, we must be mindful that we are still a long way from a world of fully autonomous vehicles being the main users of the road network. Even if the development of such vehicles is closer than most realise, it will still be a long time before the human can be prised away from his precious vehicle. Regardless of technology, or cost, humans still view driving as a leisure activity that they do not wish to give up. So, perhaps the most significant technology-led safety advances will be made in the field of driver training.
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Virtual Reality gives us the opportunity to gain “at the wheel” experience without putting either the learner or the public at risk. It is said that experience is the best teacher, and if we are able to provide that experience without the attendant damage, injury or misery, then we truly are taking a massive step into a better and safer future. Let’s hope that the virus is something that mankind with its science can overcome and learn to live with.

Likewise, technology can help us to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the epidemic of deaths and serious injuries resulting from road traffic crashes.

Dave Conway

IMS & Road Safety Manager, FM Conway Ltd.
Chair BSI RTS/1 – Road Traffic Safety Management Systems
Head of UK Delegation to ISO/TC241– Road Traffic Safety Management Systems
Convenor ISO/TC 241 WG6 - ISO39003 Safety ethical considerations of autonomous vehicles

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