Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Driver safety systems help cut US road deaths to 60-year low

EL SEGUNDO, USA: In a development that underscores the safety benefits of automotive Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS), 2009 was the least deadly year on American roads in nearly 60 years.

A recently released report from the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that 33,808 people died from traffic accidents in the United States in 2009, representing a 9.7 percent decline in total road deaths over the previous year and the lowest number of deaths since 1950.

Fatalities declined for all categories of vehicle occupants and non-occupants, including motorcycles, which had previously seen a continuous 11-year increase, and pedestrians, who generally have no built-in protection system when colliding with a motor vehicle.

Surprisingly, these across-the-board decreases in fatalities occurred in a year when total Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) increased by 0.2 percent to just less than three trillion miles. The result is a historically low fatality and injury rate of 1.13 deaths per 100M VMT, the lowest ever recorded.

What is not surprising, however, is that such results appear at a time when both the government and automotive industry are pushing safety like never before, including the use of ADAS.

“In the United States, as well as in nearly every other country, automotive OEMs are steadily increasing the availability and visibility of their safety and driver assistance systems,” said Jeremy Carlson, automotive researcher for iSuppli.

“Many ADAS that would have had an effect on highway-speed fatalities and injuries have only been available for the last several years, given that the systems were introduced around model year 2006. Since then, ADAS systems have found wider usage, undoubtedly impacting NHTSA data positively. In particular, such ADAS systems would include adaptive cruise control as well as the oft-accompanying collision avoidance and mitigation system, lane departure warning, side object detection and driver monitoring.”

In 2009, 4 million ADAS units were shipped in North American cars, according to iSuppli. iSuppli forecasts that by 2017, total OEM ADAS will reach 30.7 million vehicles in North America, equating to a CAGR of 29.0 percent from 2009 to 2017.

The figure presents iSuppli’s North American OEM ADAS forecast for the period of 2009 through 2017.Source: iSuppli, USA.

Improving ADAS
As OEMs steadily increase the availability of current systems, both OEMs and suppliers also continue to work on the next generation of automotive safety. Vehicle-to-vehicle communications, such as the kind found in the US Department of Transportation’s IntelliDrive project, can address up to 82 percent of all crashes by unimpaired drivers, which will have considerable impact on the fatality and injury statistics reported by the NHTSA.

The government also is helping with its own efforts and hopes for even better results in 2010.

In many cases, these initiatives become joint efforts encompassing government agencies, automotive OEMs and industry suppliers. Projects such as IntelliDrive in the United States or CVIS in Europe are prime examples of such cooperation, while industry events such as the ITS World Congress, SVOX Forum and various Auto Shows provide the venues to make connections and begin discussions on how to maximize the impact of these projects.

That communication is necessary in some cases. For instance, the government-led discussion on distracted driving in Washington, D.C. in September will certainly have consequences for the automotive industry. Communication and cooperation are now as important as ever, given that both the US government and the automotive industry aim to save more lives in the coming years.

Source: iSuppli, USA.

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