A new report from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) ‘Prioritising the Safety Potential of Automated Driving in Europe’ has looked at how automated driving technology is already helping to improve road safety, preventing collisions and deaths on our roads. Some technologies are already mandatory on new cars in Europe whilst others are highly recommended.
Electronic Stability Control is mandatory on all new cars sold across Europe and Intelligent Speed Assistance, Automated Emergency Braking and lane-keeping systems are becoming much more common too. All these systems are designed to use technology to provide a kind of buffer that compensates for human error.
The report found that EU rules for safety approval on new cars will need to be revised to include ‘driving tests’ for automated vehicles and also fully autonomous vehicles. One of the key challenges the report has found is how they will be able to ensure that the autonomous vehicles follow the national road rules in the different EU countries and there will need to be this comprehensive and detailed ‘driving test’ to ensure the vehicles in question will operate safely in every environment.
There are also questions posted about an autonomous vehicle will react when it comes to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and also interaction with human-driven cars. Questions such as how will vulnerable users manage on roads where eye contact is no longer a clear indicator of safety and how will automated and non-automated vehicles effectively and safely drive on the same roads?
The potential benefits of autonomous driving technology are huge and the paper includes many of them from the fact that autonomous vehicles can’t drink and drive, can’t be distracted by social media or other passengers and they can be fully programmed to travel at the appropriate speeds in every environment with 24/7 focus on the road at all times.
With everything new and innovative there are new risks to consider which is why this paper poses so many questions and suggests that there will need to be a considerable number of answers before automated vehicles will be considered roadworthy and safe in every instance and the ETSC state that there is an ‘urgent need’ for prerequisites to be in place before automated vehicles are widely deployed across Europe.
Speaking on behalf of the ETSC, Executive Director Antonio Avenoso commented: “Automated vehicles are already starting to appear on Europe’s roads, but regulators are still stuck in the slow lane. It is crucial that we get a much greater understanding of what the real world safety benefits would be, and what new risks would be introduced before these vehicles are put on sale.“
Photo Credit: By Norbert Aepli, Switzerland, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31449636