Dr. Chris Davies, Head of Technical Superiority at Autoglass®, recently spoke at an industry roundtable hosted by Autoglass® and Brake, The Road Safety Charity, entitled “Small Degree, Big Impact: How Can Fleet Operators Maximise the Safety Benefits of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems?”
I have worked in the automotive industry for more than twenty years, and I have never witnessed a period of change quite like we’ve seen over the last four to five years. Almost every new vehicle made today contains numerous safety technologies which alert drivers to hazards on the road. By 2022 every new vehicle model will have to be fitted with Emergency Lane Keeping and with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) by 2024.
As with any new technology, regulation needs to be created and updated to adequately manage risk and safeguard drivers. In other industries we have seen regulators struggle to keep up with the rate of technological development, for example appropriate safeguards around social media to protect young and vulnerable people. If ADAS is not managed correctly it can have dangerous consequences on the road, so it’s essential the industry moves quickly to ensure we are doing everything possible to keep drivers safe.
One example of how ADAS regulation can help prevent accidents is through regulation of AEB systems. Many accidents are caused by late braking, either as a result of the driver being distracted, the vehicle in front stopping suddenly or the driver not braking with enough force. AEB systems prevent this by stopping the vehicle independently of the driver.
However, despite the installation of AEB systems being mandatory in new vehicles from 2024 there is no regulation around instructing drivers how to use such systems and it is still possible for drivers to switch them off. This seems crazy to me – in my opinion AEB is the most important ADAS system and works as a safety net in the most critical scenarios. While AEB systems should switch themselves back on automatically when the vehicle is next driven, this is not the case for other ADAS functions, like Lane Keep Assist. The danger here is if someone else uses the vehicle without realising the safety system is switched off, they will be relying on technology which is not even in use. Regulations must be put in place to ensure the driver is unable to switch off these systems.
On top of switching it off, another issue is that it can be very dangerous if the AEB sensors are not recalibrated correctly after any windscreen replacement. The sensors and cameras will only work when properly aligned and able to accurately gauge distance. If the system thinks a vehicle is further away than it actually is then it will not brake in time, resulting in an accident. Regulation needs to come into force to ensure recalibration is conducted after a windscreen replacement or work on the car’s body – and that this recalibration is performed to the necessary standard.
At the moment, many of the UK’s bodyshops are struggling to keep up with the rate the technology is being introduced to vehicles, and they simply do not have the skills or expertise needed to recalibrate the sensors accurately. We need to support technicians and equip them with the skills needed to perform the ADAS recalibration, but regulation can also help ensure no one is on the roads with an uncalibrated sensor. Making an ADAS check part of any MOT test would be one way of maintaining standards on this.
Mandating use is not the only way to make an impact – awareness is also important. At Autoglass® we still have instances where we replace a windscreen and a customer refuses to have their ADAS sensors recalibrated. The problem here is that this work is seen as an optional extra and it simply isn’t.
A comparison I often make is with speeding. There have been multiple government adverts and campaigns to encourage drivers to not speed on the roads. Now of course speeding is a big issue which needs to be addressed, but why are there not similar campaigns aimed at raising awareness of ADAS and the importance of recalibration? The more people are made aware of the benefits, limitations and risks of not using the technology correctly, the safer our roads will be.
The new technology brings numerous safety benefits, but the speed at which it is being introduced is creating numerous complications for the wider industry. More needs to be done to ensure drivers and fleet managers are aware of their benefits and the industry is regulated properly.