Cars are getting stronger and technology is making them safer for the people inside them as much as those around them. Yet there’s no avoiding the uncomfortable truth that there are still 1.24 million people killed on our roads every year. That’s approximately one person every six seconds. And the number is rising, says the World Health Organisation (WHO). Vision Zero aims to put a stop to that.
Vision Zero has a simple objective: to stop deaths and serious accidents on our roads by 2020. It began in 1994, as a thought-provoking concept that was launched in Sweden. Just three years later, Swedish Parliament was so impressed it passed a Road Traffic Safety Bill that wrote the Vision Zero into law.
The rest of the world sat up and took notice of Sweden’s bold declaration. The concept neatly encapsulated what everyone within the car industry and wider infrastructure was already working toward.
As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of active and passive safety systems for vehicles, Continental has embraced Vision Zero. The German company hopes to eradicate human error – which plays a part in 95 per cent of all accidents, according to Dekra, an International Standards agency.
How Vision Zero works
Technology will ultimately help to prevent people from making mistakes at the wheel. You could take control away from drivers, humans, entirely and hand it over to computers. Or you might ensure that cars are sufficiently intelligent to avoid accidents independently of the driver’s actions. And when it comes to the crunch, if an impact is inevitable, the car should reduce the effects so no one is harmed. And then there is the driving environment and keeping cars separate from other vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists.
Vision Zero and Continental
Continental is the only tyre maker that is part of a company that covers the entire mobility process, from the car’s controls to the road. As a consequence, Vision Zero is anchored in the company’s corporate strategy. Safer driving, accident prevention and protection of drivers, passengers and other road users in collisions all feature in the company’s development of the unseen, vital components that go into developing the modern car.
Of course the expertise that goes into Continental’s tyres plays a significant part in road safety. But those tyres still need to have adequate tread depth and be inflated to the correct pressure so education clearly plays a part in Vision Zero.
Then there are electronic driver assistance systems. Continental has already developed ABS anti-lock braking, which allows drivers to steer a car safely during emergency braking; ESC Electronic Stability Control, which prevents a car sliding out of control; Electronic Brake Assist (EBA), which helps apply maximum braking performance in an emergency stop; and the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), which alerts drivers to a puncture or dangerously inflated tyre.
But where driver assistance systems can play a more significant role in improving driver safety is when they assist with control of the car. For that there’s Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which can bring a car to a stop when faced with an obstacle that the driver failed to spot, and lane departure warning systems that act as a guardian angel and can correct a car from wandering into the path of danger. Continental has developed all such systems, and many more besides, as it helps car makers make their cars safer than ever.
Vision Zero: the history
According to the International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD), five countries have fewer than three road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. So it’s fitting that the term Vision Zero (in a road safety context) originated from Sweden. The aim was to bring together the car industry, traffic experts and authorities to work on reducing the number of human deaths caused by road accidents to zero by 2020.
Vision Zero: the future
The beauty of electronics is they never switch off and never panic. As a result, automated driving will cut the number of road fatalities more than cars with assisted driving systems that only kick in in the event of a potential emergency. Effectively, the autonomous car should be able to prevent people being exposed to danger. Continental has already developed automated driving technologies such as Traffic Jam Assist, Parking Companion, Cruising Chauffeur and Remote Garage Parking. As far back as 2012, Continental-equipped vehicles covered 15,000 miles of highly automated driving on public roads in Nevada USA, without incident. It’s an example that the technology already exists to bring us closer to the ultimate goal of Vision Zero.