EC drive to cut HGV kill rates will see more mandating of driver assistance technology, discovers Siegfried Mortkowitz [Mob.Mortkowitz.2015.12.21]

Since 1 November, 2015, all new heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) sold in the European Union have had to be equipped with lane departure warning systems (LDWS) and autonomous emergency braking systems (AEBS).

Fitting out trucks and buses with these two advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) was mandated in an European Commission (EC) regulation published 13 July, 2009 and covers Category M2 and M3 vehicles, which are designed to carry more than eight passengers, and Category N2 and N3 vehicles, which carry goods and weigh more than 3.5 tons.

Certain parts of the mandate are being implemented in stages. New types of vehicles in these classes had to be equipped with these systems by 1 November, 2013. In addition, the mandate foresees two categories of AEB systems, which are dubbed Level 1 and Level 2. These are AEBS performance standards, explains Peter Kronberg, safety director at the Volvo Group, and define the time it takes for a heavy vehicle to reduce speed when approaching a stationary or slow-moving vehicle. According to the mandate, all new heavy vehicles must be equipped with Level 2 AEBS no later than 1 November, 2018. Kronberg says Volvo trucks already meet the Level 2 standard.

Although several classes of vehicles are exempt from the mandates, including urban buses, off-road vehicles and vehicles with more than three axles, this is an important step to making European roads safer. The EC estimates that the addition of these two ADAS systems, as well as the mandated electronic stability control (ESC) system, which went into effect in 2014 for all new vehicles, will prevent some 5,000 road traffic fatalities a year in Europe.

“AEBS is really designed to prevent front-to-rear crashes on motorways and medium- to high-speed roads,” Andrew Miller, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, explains. “And the governments decided to target heavy-goods vehicles because their mass means that when they do crash on a motorway, they cause a lot of damage and a serious threat to life. And they are major contributors occasionally to very serious multi-pileup car crashes.”

Miller says that when the regulation was first developed, ADAS systems were already considered as having a great potential benefit. “Since those days, these systems have got even better. Now they are very effective on cars as well. That’s why regulators are starting to think about potentially extending this type of regulation to passenger vehicles.”

Asked if truck manufacturers resisted the mandates, as carmakers fought the eCall mandate, Miller explains that the fleets are a different business model from carmakers. “The vehicles are obviously much more expensive than the average passenger car,” he says. “And the whole customer proposition is different, because these are long-life assets, working assets. I’ve heard some people argue that, because it’s an expensive product, they can’t bear the extra cost of these features. And if these vehicles are off the road, they’re not making money.”

That it took only six years to implement the LDWS and AEBS mandates stands in stark contrast to the decade or so it took to roll out the EC’s eCall mandate, now scheduled to be implemented on April 1, 2018.

Kronberg says his company had been working toward equipping its heavy vehicles with these and other ADAS systems well before the mandate was announced. “We carry out accident research and we map out the important areas of accident types that frequently occur on the roads. And the most frequent serious accidents that occur among buses and trucks are rear-ending and stability-related accidents, as well as running-off-the-road accidents.”

He said the mandate made “a lot of sense” because these systems are designed to prevent these types of accidents. He said Volvo added LDW systems to its vehicles in 2007 and AEBS in 2012. They were developed from earlier safety systems, such as adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning.

“At its core, it’s really the technology used in these earlier systems,” Kronberg notes. “By using both camera and radar we have an excellent detection system paired to a really strong and intuitive warning strategy to support the driver.”

He called the mandates exciting because they were introduced widely and he expects them to have a significant impact on road accidents. But he says he is unaware of any general trend among insurance companies to reduce premiums for operators of trucks equipped with the mandated systems, as is currently being offered to owners of AEBS-equipped passenger cars by some UK insurers. One reason may be that there is not yet enough data on the effectiveness of the systems to establish an effective risk profile.

“But as these systems prove themselves,” Kronberg says, “obviously the insurance industry will recognise the fact that these trucks do end up in fewer accidents. It will be clear that these systems are really effective.”

He says it would make sense to mandate other active safety systems in the future, such as the lane-changing support system already available on Volvo trucks. It uses radar on the passenger side of the cab to provide awareness of traffic in the right lane when the truck is moving into that lane, the so-called blind spot. Lack of clear sight into that lane is also a frequent cause of accidents, although usually with less severe consequences, Kronberg explains.

He is very clear about the benefits of adding more active safety systems to heavy-duty vehicles, saying: “Done right, ADAS solutions improve safety, improve efficiency and, importantly, they improve productivity for the operator.”

Miller notes that the EC is considering issuing other possible mandates but nothing has been decided. “There’s lots of discussion going on,” he says, “but I haven’t seen any white smoke yet.”

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