Helping hands for drivers improve safety

A four-year study has revealed that road safety is definitely improved by driver assistance systems installed in vehicles.
A coalition of partners from the automotive industry tested eight driver assistance systems that .../ Credits: Shutterstock
The European Field Operational Test (euroFOT) project comprehensively tested eight driver assistance systems that have been on the market since 2008, using 1,000 specially-equipped cars and heavy goods vehicles motoring on Europe's roads for more than twelve months, and driven by a variety of drivers.

Twenty-eight partners from the automotive industry, research institutions and universities supported the research, with the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT) entrusted with the effectiveness analysis. This commitment is an important part of the Allianz Global Automotive strategy as a development partner of the automotive industry, providing support in various spheres from research and development to production, sales, after sales, and claims handling.

During the euroFOT field trial, every time the cars made a turn, increased or reduced their speed or changed lanes, movement values were tracked and documented. Moreover, drivers and driving situations were recorded on film in many of the cars.

The research project studied the potential of the driver assistance systems to increase traffic safety and efficiency, the drivers' willingness to accept the systems, improvements in driving behavior, the fuel-saving potential, and the corresponding impact on the environment.

"In the past, any evaluation of these systems had to rely on forecasts and a large number of assumptions. For the first time this large-scale field test now provides genuine scientific data on acceptance, use and efficiency that clearly demonstrate the increased safety provided by systems that are already available,” said Johann Gwehenberger, Head of Accident Research at AZT.

The results speak for themselves. For instance, simply by using adaptive cruise control in combination with the forward collision warning system, 42 percent of all forward collisions on highways could be avoided.

Field test results

The euroFOT practical tests focused on eight individual driver assistance functions, listed below. In addition to a variety of insights into their influence on traffic efficiency and fuel consumption, the following results are of particular significance for road safety:

1+2. Adaptive cruise control (ACC) and forward collision warning system (FCW)
  • The number of sharp braking maneuvers is reduced significantly (highways: -67 percent, country roads: -45 percent, in towns: -32 percent)
  • The number of critical distances to the vehicle in front is reduced significantly (highways: -73 percent, country roads: -81 percent, in towns: -63 percent)
  • The number of near misses is reduced significantly (highways: -32 percent, rural roads: -45 percent, in towns: -2 percent)
  • High degree of use of ACC on highways (switched on 52 percent of the time), 31 percent of drivers make use of ACC on rural roads
  • The prevention potential of forward collisions on the highway is 42 percent
  • The participating drivers emphasized that ACC and FCW are greatly appreciated and much used, given that they increase both driving comfort and safety.
3. Lane departure warning (LDW)
  • Improved lane adherence, as well as reduction of the average turning angle
  • Improved use of indicators
4. Navigation systems
  • Driver behavior is significantly improved, in particular as regards changing lanes, keeping an appropriate distance to vehicles in front and reducing the need for sharp braking maneuvers
5. Blind spot information system (BLIS)
  • 80 percent of drivers believed that BLIS improves safety (particularly in heavy inner-city traffic)
  • Important supplement to visual checks (looking over one's shoulder)
6 + 7. Speed limiter (SL) + cruise control (CC)
  • Reduction of journeys at excessive speeds
  • Fewer abrupt braking maneuvers
  • Fewer critical distances from the vehicle in front
8. Curve speed warning (CSW)
  • 75 percent of drivers believed that CSW increases safety (particularly on rural roads).
  • CSW supports defensive driver behavior.

Improved insurance products

Given the real measurements and experience in the field, accident researchers at the Allianz Center for Technology are optimistic that using driver assistance systems of the current and the next generation can result in even greater improvements in road safety.

A fast time-to-market, which Allianz will continue to support in the long term by means of awareness campaigns for drivers and corresponding insurance products, is an absolute must.

Allianz will be making use of euroFOT results for international insurance products. "The data that were gathered in real-life traffic are particularly important to Allianz", explains Karsten Crede, CEO of Allianz Global Automotive. "They enable us to even better evaluate the impact of driver assistance systems on insurance claims and to develop insurance products for the international market with our partners in the automotive industry that take account of the accident reduction potential."

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