2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-08-25 09:36
The driving safety systems have reached a high level in recent years. But a large number of the assistants convey a false sense of security. You must therefore proceed with caution on the way to accident-free driving.
By Thomas Flehmer
Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche believes in largely accident-free driving in ten years - and the European Union is also pursuing a halving of road traffic deaths by 2020 as part of "Action Zero" in its white paper. Currently, only German Roads kill nearly 4,000 people a year. "The technology of safety is developing rapidly," says Volker Schindler, head of the motor vehicles department at the Technical University of Berlin, on the sidelines of the "Road Safety" conference of the Association of German Engineers (VDI) in Berlin. But the question arises: How much passive safety do we need in the future?
30 percent of road deaths not wearing seat belts
ABS, airbags and ESP have been established for many years. In recent years, sensor and video technology have raised driver assistance systems to an even higher level. Distance cruise control, traffic sign recognition and emergency brake assist have meanwhile moved from the luxury class, in which the initially very expensive systems found their way into the compact class.
But the large number of assistants also has its difficulties. "Even today, 30 percent of those killed are not wearing seat belts," says Thomas Herpich from the automotive supplier TRW Automotive Systems, "they feel safe because of the passive safety elements."
Four security priorities
At the conference, the engineers therefore want to prioritize the various systems that make sense to help prevent accidents. To this end, the "Berlin Declaration on Vehicle Safety" issued by the VDI two years ago is to be updated. According to Rodolfo Schöneburg, Director of Safety at Daimler AG and Chairman of the organizing VDI-Gesellschaft Fahrzeug- und Verkehrstechnik, four points enjoy the highest priority.
In addition to avoiding accidents, unprotected road users such as pedestrians and cyclists should be better protected. Electromobility raises new security conflicts. And the passive safety of motorcyclists must be improved.
Highly endangered motorcyclists
"The percentage of those killed is particularly high among motorcyclists," said Schöneburg. In addition to technical systems, climatic conditions and self-discipline also play a role for bikers. "After a long winter, it's back on the motorcycle without any practice," says Schöneburg. Accidents are then almost inevitable.
With electric cars, great importance is attached to weight, which affects the range. "This leads to technical complications with the mostly small electric vehicles," says Schindler, "there are differences with passive safety, since these systems have a certain weight right from the start. But small vehicles also have to be safe."
Vehicle networking as a means of avoiding accidents
Accident prevention and the protection of pedestrians and cyclists go hand in hand. Schöneburg sees potential for improvement of up to 60 percent in the coming years. "50 to 70 percent of pedestrians on the street can already be detected," says Klaus Kompass from BMW AG. Further measures will increase this number in the coming years - and prevent accidents in the first place.
The magic words not only for this area are car-to-car or car-to-X, i.e. the networking of cars with each other or between vehicles and other road users. With this, a car could virtually look around the corner and prepare for a possible dangerous situation and, in the best case, avoid the accident.
Emergency brake assist faster than the airbag
However, the systems, which are not only being tested by premium manufacturers with a high number of strokes, are also countered by a certain amount of skepticism, as ESP, ABS or airbags had to endure in their early days. "The exceptional case in which the system did not work is what we talk about," says Kompass, "that then casts a bad light on good technology." If, on the other hand, the system works, it is not discussed, perhaps the driver does not even notice the dangerous situation he was in. The ESP is an example of this. The driver may notice the anti-skid lamp and then drive on without realizing that he was in a critical situation.
But the technology also has other weaknesses. As with all newly introduced systems, the costs are initially very high. "Car-to-car only works if many cars are equipped with it," says Kompass. A few more years will pass before the technology will move from the upper to the medium or compact, let alone small car class.
On the other hand, another helper will start his triumphal march faster. "The semi-automatic brake assistant will prevail faster than the airbag back then," Herpich is certain. The system has already arrived in the compact class.
Better communication between road users and municipalities
So that the systems that are already in place and will be developed in the future can really save the lives of all drivers and become the norm in all cars, Kompass relies on so-called consumer protection ratings, since any bills and laws "lag behind technology". On the other hand, ratings like the Euro-NCAP have a certain "acceleration character" for manufacturers and car buyers to recognize the importance of safety.
But in addition to the technical helpers, Herpich also requires the help of road users and municipalities. "Communication has to be improved in order to identify the main areas of accidents. If the municipalities are given information about problem areas by road users, accidents can also be avoided in this way." And almost every driver has the technical prerequisites for communication: telephone or internet.
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