Driver aids work: Proof is all fleet operators need

By: Transport News Brief.

The use of modern technology is designed with the driver in mind and can seem like a no-brainer to those operating in the industry, however ensuring those systems are cost-effective is the dilemma fleet operators face.

Transport News Brief explores how vehicle manufacturers are continuing their drive for in vehicle development, with one eye on cost-conscious fleet operators.

timthumb-13

Proof of the pudding
Selling safety devices to truck and van operators, who are already fighting a rearguard action against falling rates and spiralling fuel costs, is no easy task. It’s no surprise that they want hard evidence that there’s a return in it for them.

Dr. Helmut Schittenhelm, responsible for Van Chassis Systems Research and Development at the Mercedes Driver Assistance Department, has analysed crash statistics gathered since 1999 by the German police in accidents that involved the brand’s Sprinter van.

He says, “The effectiveness of ESP is especially apparent in reducing ‘loss of control’ accidents involving no other vehicle.”

A database of just under 26,000 single-vehicle accidents (SVAs) resulting in physical injury was used. Between 2002 and 2005, the involvement of the Sprinter in SVAs was reduced by 39%. Mercedes believes this is a direct result of the multi-stage introduction of electronic stability program (ESP). The company says that the introduction of Adaptive ESP in 2006, reduced the involvement of the Sprinter in accidents by another 28%. The cumulative effect leads Mercedes to claim that the share of SVAs in which the Sprinter was caught up in, decreased by 64 % from 1999 to 2008. No matter which way you slice the figures they look impressive.

Windy city
The next generation of safety devices for large vans includes crosswind assist (CA), which is a clever extension to ESP (electronic stability program). On test, with a wind gust coming from the right, a distinct short ‘buzz’ from the front right-hand wheel can be felt when the system was live. This was ESP selecting that individual wheel to momentarily brake when the sensors showed a wind-induced sudden deviation starting.

The scientist’s graphs and algorithms were complex, but it works. Highbeam Assist simply detects oncoming lights, or ambient light in built-up areas, and adjusts your headlight beam automatically.

Those who scoff at the technology involved in some of these devices have clearly never been involved in a cyclist injury or fatality, a recent rash of which involved London’s trucks and buses. Blind spot assist may have save some of those lives. It covers the driver’s blind areas behind the B pillar, where cyclists or small vehicles can occasionally hide and be missed in the mirrors. Active above 19 mph, it uses four short-range radar sensors hidden in the van’s lateral rub strips, two on each side.

When a vulnerable road user is in that blind spot, a small orange triangle illuminates at the top of the relevant mirror. If a driver still indicates to pull out, the triangle turns red and a buzzer will sound. Volvo’s FH has a similar system for artics.

The solution to enhancing road safety for all road users, lies in a combination of technology, education and probably legislation.