There are an astonishing 38.7 million vehicles licensed to drive on the UK’s roads (data from June 2019) – an increase of 541,800 on the previous year. While this number will include some purely recreational vehicles, it certainly draws attention to the huge volume that use our road networks every day. And, with such a large number of motorists comes the increased risk of accidents.
In the UK alone, driver fatigue accounts for one in six crashes, with the majority of fatigue-related incidents taking place between the hours of 02.00-06.00 and 14.00-16.00. It will come as little surprise to learn that 40% of accidents caused by fatigue can be attributed to commercial vehicle drivers.
We’ve all seen the “Tiredness Can Kill” signs placed on motorway verges that urge drivers to take a break, and while these highlight the issue and do persuade some motorists to stop, there is still the chance of human error, lack of attention or misjudged manoeuvres. So technology is now being developed and applied in several key areas designed to reduce accidents caused by driver error and assist motorists’ safety.
We look at the top three innovations often referred to as the Circle of Safety, already in place in many of the current generation of vehicles.
Autonomous Emergency Braking
AEB technology has been around a number of years now, with systems typically using sophisticated radar and imaging technology to enable the vehicle to calculate the distance between itself and other vehicles and objects nearby. AEB systems differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, but usually first alert the driver that action is required, then assist them with increased force of breaking, or by directly applying the necessary breaking force to either stop the vehicle or reduce the speed of impact. AEB is a valuable driver aid, helping to reduce the impact of a possible collision and reduce the chance of a crash caused through impaired vision or fatigue.
Lane Departure Warning
Increasingly becoming a standard feature of all modern cars, lane-departure warnings ensure drivers are alerted, should the vehicle start to drift lanes. The system uses a camera mounted to the rear-view mirror and tracks the vehicle’s position in relation to the white lines defining the lanes. If the vehicle starts to drift, a warning rumble can be felt through the steering wheel, similar to the sensation felt when driving over painted rumble strips, or an alarm will sound. The system is normally disengaged when the indicators are used, or the system recognises positive steering input. The system can also go one step further using lane centring and lane keep, where the vehicle auto corrects the position in relation to the white lines, reducing the chance of a collision, especially when used in tandem with the other driver assist technologies.
Blind Spot Detection
With vehicles of all sizes sharing the UK’s roads, including bicycles, motorbikes, cars and lorries, making sure you remain alert and aware of the vehicles around you is paramount to staying safe. Even with well placed mirrors vehicles can still go unnoticed in ‘blind spots’. In the more extreme cases this has led to lorries on motorways accidently and dangerously pushing cars along horizontally in front, not even realising they’re there.
Blind spot detection sensors are placed on the wing mirror and can alert the driver when a vehicle moves into the space outside of the mirror’s field of view. The warning is often a flashing light on the mirrors themselves. Some systems integrate with other safety functions to prevent a vehicle from turning into a blind spot area if a collision would likely be caused.
With technology packed cars from makers including Tesla, Toyota and Mercedes, the steps to reduce human error greatly improve with each model generation, with fully automated, driverless cars also becoming an ever more realistic proposition. However, with the multitude of vehicle applications, the switch to a driverless environment is not likely to become a viable reality for decades. In the meantime, always take the utmost care when driving and while enjoying the technology make sure not to become completely reliant on the safety systems. Read our Glovebox Guide to Winter Driving here.
If you’d like to discuss any aspect of this article or to review vehicle hire options that utilise the Circle of Safety technologies mentioned, then please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team today.
Categorised in: Advice
This post was written by Mike Palmer
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