Automakers are ignoring the simple solution to the rise of traffic deaths | Tech Ops

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Ford introduced at the moment that it’s exploring “new smartphone-based communications expertise” to warn drivers of pedestrians, cyclists and different weak highway customers who could also be hidden from view. This follows a request for data from the US Division of Transportation (USDOT) about the opportunity of utilizing related communication expertise as “warning techniques for each drivers and [vulnerable road users].”

The underlying message of those two bulletins is that expertise may help gradual and even e-book the dramatic rise in highway deaths within the US. Site visitors fatalities hit a 20-year excessive in early 2022, and officers they blamed the pandemic for inflicting extra reckless driving conduct. And expertise, that amorphous panacea for a lot of of life’s issues, is seen as a possible resolution.

The true reply is way less complicated than that.

However after all the true reply is way less complicated than that: simply make the automobiles go slower.

A lot of the parable that the auto business has constructed round it entails the liberty to go the place you need as quick as you need. So naturally, auto firms will not embrace slower automobiles as an apparent resolution to the rising epidemic of car fatalities. As an alternative, they may launch costly analysis tasks with tutorial stakeholders to develop some sort of nebulous technological resolution to the issue of harmful driving and poorly designed infrastructure.

To be clear, I am not against expertise that makes driving safer, however I am not satisfied the auto business has the proper of expertise in thoughts. Ford, for instance, has been beating the identical drum for some time now: the thought that there’s a kind of communication expertise that permits automobiles to speak with pedestrians’ smartphones to scale back deadly collisions.

Here is what Ford envisions as a doable resolution:

The conceptual smartphone app working on a pedestrian’s cellphone makes use of Bluetooth Low Vitality (BLE) messaging to speak its location to a related Ford automobile. If the automobile calculates a possible crash danger, Ford SYNC® can alert drivers by way of the automobile’s show displaying graphics of pedestrians, cyclists or extra with audio alerts. Ford, Commsignia, PSS, The Ohio State College, T-Cell and Tome Software program are demonstrating the expertise on the Clever Transportation Society of America World Congress in Los Angeles this week.

Ford does not come proper out and say it, however what he is speaking about is known as V2X, or vehicle-to-everything communication. Typically talking, V2X permits automobiles to ship and obtain messages about highway circumstances, comparable to dashing, climate, or site visitors congestion. Theoretically, it might additionally assist forestall crashes by utilizing that data to make selections, comparable to making use of emergency braking.

On this explicit case, Ford’s thought is to bombard the driving force with in-vehicle alerts when an unseen pedestrian is liable to being hit. And equally, the identical expertise would alert the pedestrian, bicyclist or bicyclist to the approaching automobile. Alerting each events to a doable collision is, in Ford’s view, precisely what can be wanted to keep away from a tragic consequence.

It does not precisely work that approach.

Besides it does not precisely work that approach, based on safety consultants. Some pedestrians or bicyclists do not at all times have their smartphones with them or, in the event that they do, they do not consistently test them for alerts about approaching automobiles. Moreover, smartphone use tends to be decrease in low-income communities the place a disproportionate variety of crashes already happen.

Additionally, some drivers are aggravated by all of the alerts they obtain inside their automobile and have a tendency to disregard them. Or they grow to be overly reliant on alerts, which might result in extra careless driving.

“You don’t need individuals to suppose they do not need to search for pedestrians,” stated Sally Flocks, government director of the Atlanta-based advocacy group PEDS. streetsblog in 2019, the final time Ford proposed a V2X resolution for highway security. “I am not against expertise. I simply do not suppose it solves the issue of pedestrian security.”

USDOT appears to suppose it has some benefit within the expertise. In a latest data request, the division notes that intersections are proving to be particularly harmful, with 27 p.c of site visitors fatalities in 2020 occurring at freeway crossings. He desires to know if new applied sciences can play any function in decreasing these fatalities, together with “automobile automation, machine imaginative and prescient, notion and sensing, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications, sensor fusion, picture and knowledge analytics, synthetic intelligence (AI), route planning and choice making in actual time”.

These applied sciences might play some function in serving to to scale back highway site visitors fatalities.

These applied sciences might play some function in serving to to scale back site visitors fatalities. I can not argue with that. However I ponder if the federal authorities, and definitely the auto business, is shedding the forest for the bushes by placing a lot emphasis on technological improvements for an issue with a a lot less complicated resolution.

Cross legal guidelines to make automobiles go slower. Enhance intersections and alter avenue design to prioritize pedestrians and bicyclists over the unimpeded stream of vehicle site visitors. Set up pace cameras and different management instruments. Principally making life harder for motorists.

That is what Helsinki and Oslo, two of Europe’s smallest capitals, did and have been rewarded with dramatic reductions in highway site visitors fatalities. By making it troublesome to make use of a automobile within the metropolis, Oslo officers have seen a number of years go by with out highway deaths. The town has imposed congestion and different tolls, in addition to greater parking charges, to make it costlier to drive. He lowered pace limits throughout town and put in “coronary heart zones” the place driving is prohibited in areas round colleges. Helsinki did a lot the identical, and town has seen a 75 p.c drop in site visitors fatalities previously 30 years, as a visiting Harvard Kennedy College fellow (and Edge collaborator) David Zipper.

Within the absence of a nationwide initiative, some states are in search of to drive auto firms to higher adjust to security requirements. A brand new invoice within the New York State Senate, for instance, would require all new automobiles registered within the state to have speed-limiting expertise by 2024, although it is unclear whether or not the state has the authority to require this type. of expertise. (The federal authorities, not particular person states, is usually tasked with regulating auto security requirements.)

Even a modest drop in pace can imply the distinction between life and demise. A 2010 examine and evaluation by the Transport Analysis Laboratory in England discovered that the chance of demise in a crash at 30 mph was 3 p.c for frontal influence and 25 p.c for aspect influence. At 40 mph, that danger elevated to 17 p.c and 85 p.c, respectively.

Even a modest drop in pace can imply the distinction between life and demise.

To make sure, USDOT doesn’t search technological salvation in isolation. The division can also be occupied with related regulatory and design modifications to scale back dashing and enhance security, committing billions of {dollars} to “full avenue” tasks in all 50 states.

However the auto business’s message is sort of completely about high-tech options to the present disaster. The one automaker I can consider in recent times that has even addressed the difficulty of pace limiters is Volvo, which made the controversial choice a number of years in the past to restrict the pace of all new automobiles to 180 km/h ( 112mph).

Volvo stated the choice was primarily based on the objective of reaching “zero deaths and accidents from highway accidents” sooner or later. However a lot slower speeds and larger involvement from the auto business can be wanted if we’re ever going to get there.

Automakers are ignoring the simple solution to the rise of traffic deaths