As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Will Manufacturers be able to Eliminate Car Crashes?

In recent years, car developments have largely oriented around safety improvements. Manufacturers have honed in on this area, hoping to address the issue of fatalities on our roads. And for the large part, auto makers have played a notable role in reducing the road toll. Further innovations and developments are now being spoken of to maintain this momentum, and possibly, eliminate car crashes all together. But is this really possible?

There are no shortage of measures being designed as a direct response to car accidents. To name a few:

  • Forward collision systems that detect an impending crash;
  • Adaptive headlights which provide visibility around corners;
  • Magnetic roads that ‘guide’ vehicles;
  • Communicative vehicles that ‘speak’ with one another;
  • And the most prominent innovation, fully autonomous vehicles

While each of these innovative measures could help reduce road casualties even further, there’s still a very obvious facet missing from the discussion here. That is, we seem to be doing everything to modify technology, but we’re not actually addressing driver behaviour. In fact, we’re looking to bypass the driver to achieve desired results. Hardly an encouraging fact.

Although making technological changes is all well and good, they introduce a disparity between road users. Those who are driving the latest cars equipped with such technology, and those who do not. Even though many innovations eventually become mainstream across all levels of new vehicles, the time for this roll out is often such that new technology features come along. That is, by the time one feature becomes standard across all vehicles, the next ‘must have’ technology is being fitted into top of the line vehicles. Then the cycle continues.

We’re also not at a level where we can begin to depend on technology at all costs. That is, drivers should not be taught to become ‘dummies’ in their cars, oblivious to their surroundings. The fact is, things can, and sometimes do go wrong when technology is involved, and this is unlikely to be any different when installed in a car where external factors can cause a hazard.

This is where an emphasis needs to return to the person behind the wheel, who ultimately, can still cause an accident on our roads by way of being distracted, poor driving habits, a mistake, or through reckless actions. Today’s licencing requirements are indeed far too lenient. Sure, the burden has increased for new drivers who are on their P plates, but the focus is still misdirected.

It is important new drivers are tested on their ability to drive cautiously and courteously on our roads. This is not a matter for dispute. However, reactive mechanisms have largely been overlooked. That is, if one finds themselves losing control of a vehicle, or in danger of causing an accident, drivers need to be equipped with the necessary motoring skills to avoid or at least mitigate the impact of a crash.

Therefore, as we proceed down the rabbit hole where we increasingly rely on technology doing all the driving for us, we need to be considerate about the impact this will have on driver behaviour. Technological developments will save countless lives but until we also address the skills and mindset of the person behind the wheel, we’re still some time away from getting anywhere near zero road fatalities.

One comment

  1. Zoran Sarin says:

    As a beginner traffic engineer more than 25 years ago, I was taught that the Police and RTA compiled “crash” data and not “accident” data as over 97% of crashes were caused by human error.
    It was refreshing to see you use the reference of a crash in the title and opening paragraph. However you then referred to accidents in the very next paragraph. If you look at the 5 bullet points, they are all addressing the issue of a crash, not an accident.
    The reason we are looking to bypass the driver is pure and simple. The vast bulk of crashes are caused not my faulty vehicles but driver error.
    I don’t know what the percentage is today, but I would suspect it is still around the 97% mark.
    Like it or not, we are the common denominator. We are the problem. Despite enormous dollars invested in changing road design, introduction of traffic signals, fences, guard rail, safety barriers, ANCAP testing, speed limits, police enforcement, LATM’s etc…crashes continue to occur. And how often do we pass a car crash and wonder how on earth did that happen?
    The answer is us.
    So until you take “us” out of the equation, crashes will continue to occur.

    September 25th, 2017 at 9:46 am