Autonomous cars may not be widely used on our roads for some years yet, but companies can still take advantage of the same technology to significantly reduce their business motoring costs, writes Simon Turner, campaign director of Driving for Better Business.
One of the main benefits of autonomous cars is that they are designed not to crash. This is achieved through a range of sensors fitted to the cars (camera, radar, lidar), which can assess the environment around the vehicle and any nearby hazards, and then control the car in order to avoid a collision.
The development of this technology is already well advanced. It is currently being tested in a number of manufacturer trials around the world, and particularly in the UK, where the legislative landscape is more flexible.
The interesting thing for business motoring is that much of this technology is already available right now on new cars and vans in the form of what is known as advanced driver assist systems (Adas).
It doesn’t take full control of the car but it can take some form of evasive action if the car or van detects it is about to have a collision and the driver fails to respond.
Specifying one or more of these systems on your company vehicles could dramatically reduce the amount of unnecessary damage your vehicles suffer owing to driver error or lapses in concentration…
1 Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
AEB uses cameras and sensors to monitor the road ahead and will apply the brakes if the driver fails to respond.
In trials conducted by Thatcham Research, AEB has been proven to reduce real-world, rear-end accidents by up to 38 per cent.
Additionally, as many of these collisions result in expensive third-party claims from occupants in the vehicle that was hit, this reduction in collisions also translates into a reduction in such claims of up to 45 per cent.
There are now a variety of systems available, including low-speed or “city”, which work at speeds up to around 30mph; high-speed, which can work at up to motorway speeds; and specific systems that identify, and work to avoid collisions with, pedestrians, animals, cyclists and motorbikes.
2 Reverse AEB
A fifth of accidents involve reversing into another car. Insurance claims for such incidents cost £1.7 billion annually.
Far more seriously, not being aware of what is behind you can result in serious or fatal injuries to children, pedestrians and cyclists.
Reverse AEB goes a step further than making warning beeps, applying the brakes of the car if the driver fails to heed the alerts.
3 Adaptive cruise control (ACC)
By maintaining a safe gap to the car in front, adaptive cruise control can help cut incidents caused by tailgating. As with AEB, ACC can use cameras, radar or lidar to determine the gap to the vehicle in front.
Unlike normal cruise control, adaptive systems maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front, regardless of your set speed.
Drivers that use ACC have been shown to have fewer collisions. It is suggested that it helps to condition the driver to maintain safe driving distances.
Adaptive cruise control also has some useful and safety and cost-reducing side benefits, as many drivers report lower levels of fatigue and better fuel consumption.
4 Lane keep assist (LKA)
In the UK, 20 per cent of deaths or serious injuries are down to single vehicle crashes where a vehicle leaves the road completely.
LKA systems will gently correct a vehicle’s steering to ensure that it stays within the white lines and road edge.
Not to be confused with lane departure warning systems that only warn the driver, LKA systems actively but subtly steer the vehicle back into lane.
With LKA, a front-facing camera tracks road markings to determine if the vehicle is straying out of its lane and potentially off the road or into the path of another vehicle. Six per cent of A-road crashes are head-on collisions where a vehicle has left its lane.
5 Turn across path (TAP) protection
Beginning to find its way into mainstream vehicles, TAP comes into play when one vehicle cuts across the path of an oncoming car at junctions – an action responsible for 14 per cent of all collisions.
TAP systems use a wider focus to monitor oncoming vehicles as well as those in the same lane.
If the system detects a driver turning into the path on an oncoming vehicle, it will automatically apply the brakes to avoid a potential head-on collision.
The Driving for Better Business campaign forms the core element of the Highways England business outreach programme, delivered in partnership with RoadSafe and collaborating with a broad range of partners, including road safety groups, casualty reduction partnerships, business networks, trade associations, stakeholders, media partners and other relevant commercial organisations
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