Automation is a hot topic, especially in the transport sector. The technology is often described as the solution to all problems related to traffic safety, congestion and sustainability. However, it will take many years before all vehicles are automated and until this point we need to manage mixed traffic. Self-driving vehicles will share the same space as vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. The potential to do other things whilst travelling in a self-driving vehicle may indeed cause increases in travel, resulting in further congestion, more accidents, and increased energy use. Society needs to formulate sharper requirements, and research, development, testing and certification all need to go hand in hand, in order to result in improved traffic safety, mobility, and sustainability. Furthermore, connected and automated vehicles may in fact lead to entirely new risks and indeed cause new types of accidents, in need of investigation to be preventable.
The European Road Safety Research Institutes, FERSI, has seen the need to describe the challenges with automation, and what is required for this to become the key to safer traffic. Hence, a working group has created a position paper, an opinion document that presents FERSI’s views on the matter. The document, entitled “Safety through automation?” describes the questions that need to be answered, and suggests actions to be taken. Research Director Anders Lindström, representing the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, VTI, has led the working group.
“We have examined what is required for automated and connected vehicles to improve traffic safety, and we have also identified the safety risks we do not believe can be solved with automated and connected vehicles,” says Anders Lindström.
10 principles for safety of automation
The document also highlights several new safety risks directly related to automated and connected vehicles and discusses how such vehicles and their technology can be tested, evaluated and certified.
“It is highly satisfying that VTI has been entrusted to lead the workgroup that created this position paper, based on our competence and long-standing reputation as a prominent research institute within the EU. By leading this working group, we have been given the opportunity to contribute to increased knowledge regarding the challenges associated with automated vehicles,” says Tomas Svensson, Director General of VTI.
The conclusions of the FERSI document are summarised in 10 fundamental principles for “Safety through automation”. For example, the working group has established that all operators of automated cars must be trained, tested and licenced before they may drive. Infrastructure must be adapted to a mixture of automated and non-automated vehicles. The development must also be regulated so it takes the safety of all road users into account, including vulnerable road users.
“The 10 principles have been formulated as a support for EU-level decision-makers, who face the challenge of making well-informed decisions so that this new technology will in fact lead to a safer transport system,” says Anders Lindström.
FERSI Position Paper – January 19, 2018: Safety through automation?
*FERSI (Forum of European Road Safety Research Institutes) is an association of traffic safety research institutes from 21 European countries. The organisation works to contribute to traffic safety research, and increase traffic safety. FERSI represents its 21 partners at the EU commission, parliament and the Council of the European Union in matters of traffic safety research, and therefore has good opportunities to influence EU regulation work regarding traffic safety.