While new technology developed by the automotive industry has made modern vehicles safer, more efficient and more environmentally sustainable than ever before, efforts to improve road safety and to reduce the number of road traffic deaths and injuries are still needed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic accidents cause the deaths of 1.3 million people each year, and leave 20-50 million people with non-fatal injuries, creating a huge drain on global healthcare resources.1 More than half of all road traffic deaths are among vulnerable road users, namely pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.2 Car accidents are also bad for the environment too, often resulting in petrol, oil and other fluid leaks that emit harmful chemicals into the environment. Most vehicles involved in an accident are scrapped and replaced, ending up as landfill.

The costs associated with road traffic accidents are shouldered by the whole of society, not just in terms of the tragic cost to human lives, but also in terms of lost productivity, delays and the burden it places on healthcare systems and infrastructure. The WHO estimates that road traffic crashes cost most countries 3% of their gross domestic product, and that 93% of the world's fatalities on the roads occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately 60% of the world's vehicles.3

In August 2020, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on ‘Improving global road safety’, including an ambitious target of preventing at least 50% of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030.4 This means there is a real opportunity for companies that are applying state-of-the-art technology to make modern cars safer, smarter, and more sustainable.

Aptiv is a global leader in the automotive technology industry and believes that ‘active safety’ plays a crucial role in preventing road traffic accidents. From its headquarters in North America, Aptiv is delivering mobility technologies, such as radar sensors, driver assistance and automated driving options, that are designed to better connect drivers with their vehicles and surroundings, and to make roads safer for all users.

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Safety standardisation

Car safety has come a long way since General Motors performed its first-ever crash test in 1934. In the 1950s, a number of safety features were introduced, including airbags, more reliable braking systems and the three-point seatbelt. The ‘50s also saw the introduction of the ‘crumple zone’ concept, where cars could be designed to protect drivers and passengers by absorbing the impact of a collision. Unfortunately, it took considerably longer before these safety features became mandatory in all vehicles.

In the 1990s and 2000s, car safety took a quantum leap forward with the introduction of on-board electronic systems and computer technology that gave drivers more control over their vehicles. This included brake assist systems, electronic stability control, and other sensor-based features such as lane departure warning systems, autonomous emergency braking and blind spot information systems.5

Of course, car safety begins with the driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 94% of all crashes are due to driver error, with an estimated 85% of those crashes caused by:

  • Recognition error – such as inattention, internal and external distractions and poor observation;
  • Decision error – such as driving too fast, misjudging curves and bends, performing illegal manoeuvres or misinterpreting the actions of other drivers; and
  • Performance error – such as overcompensation when steering or braking, or lack of directional control. Sleep, considered to be a non-performance error, is another frequent contributor towards road traffic accidents and crashes.6

Integrated safety features

Aptiv offers auto manufacturers comprehensive ‘vehicle architecture’ that brings together electronics hardware, network communications, software applications and wiring into one fully integrated system. This system controls every aspect of the vehicle’s functions, from vehicle control to advanced active safety systems such as anti-lock braking systems and electronic stability control.7

Active safety systems are the primary safety feature for automobiles, as they play a crucial role in preventing an accident from occurring. Aptiv’s current active safety systems are Level 1 and 2 on the autonomy scale. Level 5, meanwhile, represents a commercially viable, fully autonomous vehicle. As well as offering broader mobility access for drivers, autonomous vehicles are expected to significantly reduce the number of driving-related accidents and crashes.

Aptiv’s blindspot monitor and lane/side-view cameras are good examples of advanced driver-assistance systems. The blind spot monitor alerts drivers to obstacles present in blind spots around the vehicle and the lane/side-view cameras keep the driver aware of traffic during lane changes. Aptiv estimates these two forms of technology could help prevent almost 400,000 crashes in the US per year.

Aptiv also produces rear automatic braking systems, a crash avoidance technology that can detect an impending back-end collision with another vehicle in time to avoid it or minimise the impact. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non-profit organisation financed by the insurance industry, estimates that this technology reduces front-to-rear crashes by 50 percent.8

Footnotes:

1 World Health Organization, “Road traffic injuries”, 7 February 2020. [Accessed 19 July 2021].

2 World Health Organization, “Road traffic injuries”, 7 February 2020. [Accessed 19 July 2021].

3 World Health Organization, “Road traffic injuries”, 7 February 2020. [Accessed 19 July 2021].

4 United Nations, ‘Streets for Life’ campaign, [Accessed 19 July 2021].

5 AA, ‘The evolution of car safety features’, [Accessed 19 July 2021].

6 S. Singh, “Critical Reasons for Crashes Investigated in the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington DC, 2015.

7 PR Newswire, "Introducing Motional: The Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv Autonomous Driving Joint Venture Unveils New Identity", 11 August, 2020 [Accessed 19 July 2021].

8 Forbes, “Rear Automatic Emergency Braking Works Well, Study Says”, 15 January 2021 [Accessed 19 July 2021].