Yes, technology can save lives!
When governments set ambitious targets for reducing road accidents, the first temptation is to take further action and strengthen the legal arsenal. But, there are other ways of progress. One of them is to trust the technology.
As we have seen, in recent decades, the automotive industry has developed innovations that are part of our daily lives and no one calls into question. Can we reasonably challenge the contribution of the ABS, airbag, and ESC (electronic trajectory control), which are part of the standard equipment of all vehicles sold today in Europe? We are betting that the new equipment, called driver assistance systems, which is becoming more widespread, will play a major role in the years to come. The addition of radars, cameras, and other sensors, network within the vehicle, will contribute to 360-degree and permanent surveillance.
There is a paradigm shift. After having worked a lot on passive safety, improving the resistance to shocks and taking into account vulnerable users, the manufacturers now give priority to active safety. The objective is to avoid the accident, thanks to the electronic detection means that can signal the danger, facilitate night driving or assist the driver during a change of lane. We are even moving towards proactive systems that can go as far as triggering automatic braking, in case the driver does not react.
These solutions are now available on the market. They are certainly the prerogative of brands or high-end models, but they will quickly become democratized.
In parallel, Europe is also taking steps to establish an interaction between the driver, his vehicle and the infrastructure. This is the case, for example, with eCall: in other words, the emergency call that will enable the vehicle in 2015 to automatically send an emergency message in the event of an accident. A uniform system at the level of the European Union foresees a unique number, the 112, which will be composed by the vehicle in the form of an SMS which will send to the rescue centers the GPS position of the vehicle. The other major advance is what is called the Car2X, with a vehicle able to interact with others, but also with the infrastructure (traffic lights, access roads, crossroads) to give its position and back up essential information for the safety and comfort of all users. We can also add embedded telematics, with technologies that will make the vehicles of companies fleets truly connected.
All this will take time, but it is the birth of an integrated system that we are witnessing that is a real revolution. It will simply be necessary to accompany the change and show pedagogy, taking care, in particular, to explain what the contributions of these new systems and their limits, not forgetting to mention that, behind the wheel, it is always a driver who must ensure his safety and that of others.