Safe driving is critical for everyone—drivers, pedestrians, bikers, you name it. As construction workers, we also know safe driving is critical for the lives of those who work in construction work zones. For today’s blog, let’s look at how technology is advancing in effort to make the driving experience a little bit safer for all.
ABI Research recently released a report titled Integrating Driver Monitoring Systems, which looks at how automotive safety has evolved in the past 10 years. Journey back with me for a minute.
In the last decade, we have seen the rise of active safety systems, which include external facing, active sensors, and cameras. These systems can identify a dangerous situation and act on the driver’s behalf. Now, we see this trend evolving further to include the interior environment, such as DMS (driver monitoring systems) and OMS (occupant monitoring systems). The objective here is to improve safety and provide a better digital cockpit experience.
Has it helped though? To be fair, driver distraction remains a huge problem. Data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin., between 2010 and 2019 suggests that an average of roughly 3,000 people die in the United States each year in crashes involving a distracted driver.
As the years progressed, the number only increased. Looking at all traffic related fatalities, not just those at the hands of distracted drivers, we see in 2021 there were 7,388 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes, a 12.5% increase from the 6,565 pedestrian fatalities in 2020. This is the highest since 1981 when 7,837 pedestrians died in traffic crashes.
It isn’t just fatalities either. The number of injuries has seen increases in the past few years as well. We see in 2021 there were an estimated 60,577 pedestrians injured in traffic crashes, an 11% increase from 54,771 pedestrians injured in 2020. On average, a pedestrian was killed every 71 minutes and injured every 9 minutes in traffic crashes in 2021. That is just far too many.
Here’s what is interesting though if we dig in a little bit deeper. Technology can help with this too. There are many applications for in-vehicle perception that will focus on the driver in particular. The technology can detect signs of fatigue, as well as the big three: visual, manual, and cognitive distraction.
With all this information in hand, the technology can then provide responses, including HMI (human-machine interface) prompts to bring the driver back into the loop. Or the machine can simply adjust for other ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) to accommodate the impaired driver. Additionally, it can assess the front and rear passengers and provide safety advantages for all vehicle occupants.
Looking to the future, we will continue to see greater adoption of DMS and OMS, which will be driven by regulation and safety ratings agencies. The European Commission, for example, carries out regular updates to the GSRs (General Safety Requirements), which are a set of safety systems and technologies that must feature a vehicle in order to gain type approval for sale in the European Union. OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) are already pursuing value-added applications delivered over the enabling hardware of the DMS.
If we look even further out, autonomous driving will also offer big opportunities. The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Level 2+ will bring a wide array of autonomous features but will require the human driver to supervise. In Level 3, the driver will not need to supervise the performance of the system but will need to be available to retake control once the vehicle leaves the ODD (operational design domain).
But, again, I ask, will this help make our roads safer in the future? The media tends to paint this dire picture of autonomous vehicles not knowing which way to go and colliding with each other, but the reality is if we get this right it can provide significant value.
The (NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.), suggests the continuing evolution of automotive technology will deliver even greater safety benefits. Higher levels of automation remove the human driver from certain chain of events that can lead to a crash—and these technologies could potentially help protect drivers and passengers.
In order to reach this elusive future—and to see greater safety in construction zones—people need to trust this technology. They need to feel confident that these vehicles are safe, secure, and accurate. The technology companies must ensure these systems work without fault. That is really the tricky part of the equation. The future is truly bright. However, there is a long road to the safety benefits the construction industry needs to see in work zones and that will ensure our workers make it home safely each night.
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