We heard this week that 76% of UK motorists believe they would re-pass the practical driving test first time, although less than half would be confident about passing the driving theory test. A further 65% confessed to not being as familiar with the Highway Code as they were when they originally took the test, a survey from GEM Motoring Assist reveals. Parking was motorists’ main concern, with 26% admitting it would represent the biggest challenge in a practical test, followed by reversing and city driving.
It’s certainly an interesting set of results, although working closely with the country’s road safety organisations, we’re a little more cautious about the confidence of British drivers. Organisations such as TyreSafe are taking great strides in raising awareness of key road safety issues, but it’s still vital that more motorists actively understand and act on important car, road and tyre safety considerations.
One promising technology that may help improve road safety in the future is autonomous emergency braking (AEB). It’s a new system that uses radar, laser or video technology to warn drivers of an impending front-end collision and is already being introduced to some new cars. The AEB system alerts the driver, primes the brakes and eventually performs an emergency stop. It could help to improve driver and passenger safety both at low speeds (in traffic) but also at high speeds – some systems can detect pedestrians and apply the brakes if an impact is imminent.
The human and financial benefits are of this new technology are substantial, with a study by the European Commission (EC) suggesting that widespread adoption of AEB could reduce accidents by up to 27%, potentially saving 8,000 lives a year in Europe, and up to £6bn in damages. EC spokesperson Philippe Jean has also explained that studies project a considerable reduction in congestion due to accidents.
The EC believes the technology is so effective that new commercial vehicles will be required to feature AEB in order to gain European Type Approval from November 2013. It is also considering a similar policy for new cars.
However, despite the clear benefits, widespread take-up of AEB among manufacturers has been slow. Crash test organisation Euro NCAP says that the technology is not currently available on 79% of cars on sale in Europe. Manufacturers already offering AEB include Audi, Ford, Honda, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes and VW, while Volvo introduced AEB on its XC60 in 2008.
However, with no universal guidelines as to how such systems should operate, knowing what to look for as a buyer exploring new cars can be challenging. In order to address this, Euro NCAP is including AEB in its safety assessment from 2014, and says that it will be ‘practically impossible’ for models not carrying it to obtain the maximum five-star rating. The idea is that a manufacturer would need to invest so much capital in additional passive safety measures that it would be cheaper to fit an AEB system.
Meanwhile, insurers have stated that cars fitted with AEB could have their ratings reduced by up to four groups by the end of 2012. Good news for motorists!
As our roads become increasingly busy, investing in technology that protects drivers, passengers and all road users is fundamental to keeping everyone safe on the roads. We’ll follow the progress of this new technology with interest and will keep you posted on the latest developments.