According to the European Union’s official website, between 1992 and 2010, the number of fatalities annually on Europe’s roads fell from 70,000 to 31,000; between 2010 and 2013 a further 17%. This means, says the site, that “the EU is on track to achieve its strategic goal of halving road deaths [emphasis added] again by 2020.”
But clearly, as evidenced by actions it has taken recently, the EU believes this will take more than wishful thinking. Indeed, thanks to proposals from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) – a Brussels-based, independent non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the numbers of deaths and injuries in European transport – members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection voted in late February 2019 to approve a number of new vehicle safety measures.
What are the new safety measures?
The new safety measures include advanced crash testing requirements, mandatory installation of driver assistance systems including Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, Emergency Lane Keeping, and a new direct vision standard for trucks and buses to provide drivers with a better view of other road users around their vehicle. But the biggest headline-grabber has been their approval of the ETSC proposal to mandate installing speed limiters – a system called Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) in all new cars within three years.
Speed limiter technology is hardly new. Many current models have easy-to-override, on/off versions of it. Under the proposed new EU rules, however, there would be no option to turn off the system – it engages every time the vehicle starts – and overriding it is possible for only a matter of seconds.
How does it work?
ISA works by using GPS data and traffic sign recognition cameras to determine the speed limit of the road on which the vehicle is travelling. Then it limits the engine power thereby preventing the vehicle from exceeding the speed limit. Pushing hard on the throttle will temporarily override the system, but says the ETSC report, ‘If the driver continues to drive above the speed limit for several seconds, the system should sound a warning for a few seconds and display a visual warning until the vehicle is operating at or below the speed limit again.’
Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the ETSC was quoted as saying: “This legislation represents a major step forward for road safety in Europe and could save 25,000 lives within fifteen years of coming into force. But it will only apply to new vehicles. So it’s incredibly important that a final deal is reached as soon as possible, so cars with these new safety features fitted as standard start driving off production lines sooner rather than later. … Final negotiations between the Parliament, Member States and the European Commission should now begin as soon as possible.
Minimum vehicle safety standards in the EU were last updated in 2009, so it is argued that there is no time to lose. Policymakers are expected to do their utmost to achieve a final agreement before the European Parliamentary elections in May.”
The other headline-grabber is the requirement for an Event Data Recorder in all vehicles to capture critical information on the vehicle’s status in the moments before a collision, thereby helping investigators understand the causation sequence. Again, not new technology; rather the novelty is in the universal mandate.
Road Rules by Cedric Hughes and Leslie McGuffin