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Active road safety and smart connectivity

On 18 September the ECCT's Automotive committee hosted a lunch on the subject: "The future of mobility: Active road safety and smart connectivity". The event featured guest speakers Wilko Block, Strategic Marketing Manager, Chassis Systems Control Division from Bosch Japan and Ryan McGee, Senior Manager, Asia Pacific Product Operations and Launch, EESE - Connected Services from Ford Motor Company.


Wilko Block gave an overview of the effectiveness of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) in improving safety and reducing the number and severity of accidents.

While safety measures for cars have a long history of progress dating back to when three-point seat belts were introduced in 1959, much less attention has been paid to motorcycles safety issues to date. This is clear when viewing the statistics on motor vehicle accidents and fatalities. According to official German statistics, while the number and severity of passenger car accidents has continued to decline steadily since 1990, the corresponding figures for motorcycle-related accidents have hardly moved. Based on the number of fatalities in the EU, riding a motorcycle is about 20 times more dangerous than driving a car. Given the higher proportion of motorcycles (as a proportion of the total number of vehicles) on the roads in Asia, the risk of accidents is even higher. Motorcyclists account for 20% of road traffic fatalities in Europe and Japan, 14% in the United States, 28% in China and 46% in Taiwan (although it should be noted that motorcycles account for almost three quarters of Taiwan's overall vehicles).

There are three main ways to try to reduce the incidence of motorcycle accidents:

  1. Infrastructure: By implementing various measures to make traffic flow safer such as modifying roads and using other ways to separate passenger vehicles from motorcycles.
  2. Safety awareness, education and enforcement: By working to improve the safety education, awareness and behavior of drivers.
  3. Vehicle safety: By implementing both active and passive safety technology in vehicles, increasing inspections and improving maintenance.
Bosch's analysis shows that braking behavior is an important factor in accidents. Riders are either too slow to react or react in the wrong way to various situations. This is particularly dangerous on wet roads. ABS works by reducing brake pressure. Without ABS, wheels will lock causing the motorcycle to skid, usually uncontrollably. ABS prevents wheel locking and also controls the degree of braking, thereby helping to keep the bike stable and also reducing the braking distance.Many advances have been made in ABS technology over the years. Motorcycle ABS units used to be bulky and weigh four kilograms but the latest versions weigh as little as 700 grams and are much smaller.
According to Bosch's analysis, 26% of accidents in Germany could be prevented by installing ABS and a further 31% of accidents would be less severe if ABS are installed. Figures are even higher in countries like India.
In March 2013, the EU passed legislation on motorcycle safety. By 2016, it will be mandatory to fit an anti-lock braking system (ABS) to all motorcycles that have an engine displacement greater than 125 cc. In addition, smaller motorized two-wheelers with displacement of 50 cc or more are required to have either ABS or a combined braking system. Similar legislation is being planned in the United States, Japan and Brazil.
Besides increasing safety, other benefits of installing ABS include lower insurance rates and a boost to the safety image of motorcycle brands whose models are equipped with ABS. For these reasons, ABS installation rates are expected to increase significantly in future.Ryan McGee introduced the concept of smart connectivity in vehicles. There are currently around a billion vehicles in the world and this number could double or rise even higher by 2050. To reduce the impact on roads and reduce traffic problems will require a much smarter approach and the use of technology. In the near term, communications will be used to improve safety. In the medium term, there will be more vehicle to vehicle connectivity linked to the cloud. The long term goal is a network connecting all forms of transportation.Ford is working on three main aspects of connectivity: Built in, Brought in and Beamed in. Built in refers to built-in connectivity solutions in cars. Brought in refers to connecting the car to the driver's smart phone or other devices. Beamed in refers to utilizing data from outside sources such as other vehicles, infrastructure and the cloud.

Ford's Sync system is an emergency alert system that has been installed in 10 million cars with a target of 14 million by 2015. The beauty of the system is that it is simple and works on existing technology, unlike several others which require special equipment or software. The system is automatically triggered when there is a severe accident, such as when the car's air bag is released. When this happens, the system initiates a call to emergency services. It starts a countdown. At the same time, it determines the car's location using GPS. If the driver does not interrupt the process, the system sends a prerecorded message to the emergency operator, which adds the GPS coordinates of the car. Since the system is only triggered in a real emergency, there are no false alarms. The system has already saved lives. In one example provided by McGee, a man crashed into a river in a remote area and was incapacitated. Given the remoteness of the area and the fact that he was in a black car, it is unlikely he would have been discovered in time by a fellow motorist. He therefore attributed his consequent rescue and survival to the Sync system.