ESV car safety conference seeks common ground for collaborations
Day one of the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) conference and the theme has been collaboration. The event opened with a plenary session in which representatives of the US government, US automakers, Hyundai and the Swedish road safety think-tank SAFER, all gave presentations and fielded questions on collaboration. It felt a bit introspective – at a certain level doesn’t everybody welcome greater collaboration?
Woong-Chul Yang, vice-president for R&D at Hyundai summed it up well:
“We are getting better at protecting real people in real crashes, not just dummies in crash test labs. We have begun to deal with widely divergent vehicle requirements in different regions. We’re after the same goal, but the way to get there is often different.”
Yang pointed to the Global Human Body Modelling Consortium as an example of collaboration working, but said that the safety technology landscape is changing, focusing more on avoiding crashes in the first place. Intervention is better than the human driver, he said.
Yang also highlighted the need to provide safe, economical vehicles that match the needs of the buyers in emerging markets. “We’ve made a great start, but the problems facing us are now too large to be faced alone,” Yang said. “If we want future vehicles to make great advances in intelligence, we need to collaborate more.”
David Strickland, administrator at the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, agreed that the long-term challenge is creating safety systems that are data-driven, effective and that work in different parts of the world. He said that in the US, the big issue is behaviour: “A third of fatalities are because of drink-driving, a half are unbelted. We have reduced our fatalities by 25%, but how do you apply our lessons learned to places like India where you have families of six riding on a motorcycle?”
“We have begun to deal with widely divergent vehicle requirements in different regions. We’re after the same goal, but the way to get there is often different.”Wong-Chul Yang, vice-president for R&D at Hyundai
When the following workshops got down to the details, it proved harder to find the common ground that must be the basis for broad, ambitious collaborations. I sat in on the Crash Avoidance workshop where BMW’s safety chief, Klaus Kompass, succeeded in putting human factors centre stage.
“We need computer models that can predict how drivers will respond to hazards and situations so that we can forecast more accurately the lives that accident prevention technologies will save,” he said. “Right now, the NCAPs are going on little more than gut instinct,” he said, provoking a swift response from Andre Seeck, president of Euro NCAP, who was moderating the discussion: “We can wait for perfect data,” Seeck said, “but in the meantime lives are being lost needlessly.”
Kompass is sure that collaborations should be able to produce a driver behaviour model within a decade. “We need more naturalistic driving studies in more countries,” he said. “We need something like Germany’s accident database, Gidas, in China or India. The traffic in these countries is completely different. If we know how people react, we can start developing safety features to suit local needs. It’s essential to keep studying driver behaviour.”
That may sound like an excuse for not introducing the type of intervention technologies that many believe are essential to reduce accidents: autonomous braking and speed limiters. Kompass and BMW are thinking further ahead than that however. I’m looking forward to finding out more.
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