The annual number of Victorian road deaths is less than a third of what it was in 1989. But the bad news – despite spending millions on police blitzes and advertising campaigns, our road toll in 2019 is up 44 percent compared to 2018. This raises the question – have our attempts to reduce the road toll plateaued?

 

It is hard to appreciate the advancement in driver safety, but thanks to new technology, vehicle safety has come an incredibly long way. Did you know that in 1989 the average car would probably not be equipped with crumple zones – used to absorb the impact of a collision, airbags – used to prevent facial concussion with obstacles such as a windscreen, or ABS brakes and electronic stability control (ESC) – used to help control a car when sudden braking is required? In 1989, it was a challenge to control a vehicle in an incident, let alone walk away from a collision with minimal injuries. Now, due to advancements in new technology, we are ready for the next wave of vehicle safety features.

 

These days the term ‘smart’ is applied to everything from phones to fridges. In essence, ‘smart’ means that a device is computer powered and connected to other devices via the internet. Vehicles are becoming ‘smart’ too with greater numbers connecting to networks and other devices and offering connected safety features such as adaptive brake-lights, to active anti-whiplash head restraints, and automatic 24/7 emergency assistance.

 

The move toward smart vehicles has been viewed primarily in the prism of consumer convenience. There is also an emerging safety benefit. For example, smart vehicles have functions that monitor many aspects of a journey, including vehicle health information and driver behaviour. With vehicles being ‘connected’, this offers an excellent opportunity for such data to be aggregated by road authorities and used to monitor traffic in real-time. This means that if a collision suddenly occurred and a line-up of vehicles started braking, vehicles can be alerted of this hazard within seconds via dynamic signage or through the vehicle’s communication systems. Moreover, it means emergency services can be notified immediately, saving precious minutes. As data is aggregated road authorities will have the ability to dynamically change the speed limit to prevent further accidents too.

 

The genius of such systems is that it allows for speed limits to be instantly adjusted to suit the physical conditions. A trial of this use of artificial intelligence in Nevada in the United States has seen positive results, with a 17 percent reduction in crashes along the trial length of road.

 

This is important because while a road may be fit for the purpose most of the time, it may pose a safety risk in extreme conditions such as wet weather. This is what is known as a ‘transient black spot’ and has traditionally been very hard to alleviate. But by altering how drivers approach roads in severe conditions, the risk of a crash can be reduced.

 

As automated technologies move into vehicles at a rapid rate, having the vehicle forewarn drivers of poor conditions will be of critical importance. It will help the automotive industry move toward the goal of a zero-fatality environment.

 

By contributing to safer motoring and emergency response benefits, Intelematics’ technology will save drivers time and help protect them on the road. Embracing vehicle safety and security technology allow drivers to be informed, secure and connected.

 

Written by Stephen Owens, Chief Operating Officer

Published in The Australian on 8 October 2019 Smarter driving a digital future.