eSafety: the use of information and communication technology (ICT) for road safety
The European Union (EU) wishes to reduce by half the number of road fatalities by 2010. To achieve this goal, it believes that vehicle safety should be enhanced. As ICT offers great prospects in this regard, the Commission proposes the systematic use of these technologies in order to design safer and more intelligent vehicles. To promote the large-scale marketing of intelligent car safety systems, it proposes three types of actions: promoting intelligent safety systems, adapting legislation and standards, and removing social and commercial barriers.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 15 September 2003 on Information and Communications Technologies for Safe and Intelligent Vehicles [COM(2003) 542 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Transport provides for a basic need: mobility. As the number of cars on the road increases, their safety is constantly increased. Nevertheless, 40 000 people still die in road accidents each year which are the main cause of death for people under the age of 45 in Europe. Against this background, new measures are needed to achieve the main objective of the European Action Programme for Road Safety which is to reduce by half the number of road fatalities by 2010.
In order to achieve this objective, the Commission is banking on new information and communications technologies (ICT). Aware of the possibilities which ICT offers, the European Commission has launched the eSafety initiative which is intended to bring together all the stakeholders in order to work out recommendations and actions at EU level. The final report of the eSafety working group [PDF ] indicates that intelligent car safety systems offer the best prospects for ICT applications. Through this Communication, the Commission outlines its intention to support the development and as broad a dissemination as possible of these systems.
ICT in vehicles: a modern safety system
Accident prevention measures focused on the driver and the vehicle have led to a steady reduction of the number of fatalities on European roads. However, these "conventional" safety measures are reaching their limits. Bearing this in mind, the Commission emphasises the need to develop modern ICT-based safety systems.
In view of the progress already made in developing intelligent safety systems through research and technological development (RTD), the Commission intends to turn it into an area of priority action in RTD.
Intelligent car safety systems reduce the proportion of accidents due to the human factor (95%). These systems make use of ICT to provide solutions for improving road safety in particular in the pre-crash phase. These systems operate either autonomously on board the vehicle or co-operatively through vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. They make it possible to ensure safe speed, lane support, safe following, pedestrian protection, improved vision, driver monitoring and intersection safety. Their two major contributions are that they prevent collisions during lane changes or lane departure and provide vehicles with an automatic emergency call system (eCall).
Support for the car industry
Because of the laws of the market and car manufacturers' need for profitability, the development and deployment of such large-scale intelligent safety systems cannot be left to the market alone. The fact is that these technologies place serious constraints on the car industry, entailing higher production costs, energy consumption and vehicle weight.
Moreover, developing integrated intelligent road safety systems requires the involvement of many other actors such as telecommunications operators, equipment manufacturers, service providers, motorway managers, road authorities, insurance companies, road safety organisations and user associations.
Against this background, it is the Commission's view that the European, national and regional public authorities should lend their support to the private sector (in particular to the car industry) to ensure the wide-spread sale and distribution of intelligent vehicles.
Public support can take various forms: promoting standardisation, launching awareness and information campaigns or providing financial incentives.
Actions envisaged by the Commission
To provide support, the Commission proposes actions in the following three categories:
- promoting intelligent vehicle safety systems:
- continue support for the eSafety forum which is intended to become an autonomous platform;
- clearly defining the objectives and priorities of further RTD;
- designing new human-machine interaction devices;
- promoting an on-board automatic emergency call system (eCall) as a harmonised and pan-European system similar to the E112 location-based emergency call number;
- closely monitoring progress made in the provision of real-time traffic and travel information (RTTI);
- adapting the regulatory and standardisation provisions:
- removing legal barriers hampering time-limited use of short-range radar, in particular with regard to harmonised access to the radio spectrum in the EU;
- improving current legislation on EC vehicle type approval;
- inviting the European standardisation bodies to establish priorities and draw up a standardisation programme;
- removing the societal and business obstacles:
- assessing the socio-economic benefits;
- supporting the compilation of the European code of good practice and carrying out cost-benefit analysis of intelligent car safety systems;
- promoting private and public sector road maps.
The Commission also intends to participate in the following actions undertaken by the private sector:
- developing a methodology to assess the potential impact of introducing intelligent vehicle safety systems;
- developing validation methodology and procedures for vehicles equipped with such systems;
- defining, producing, maintaining and certifying a European digital map database with road safety attributes.
The Commission will support these activities through RTD financing instruments. The eSafety forum will monitor the implementation of the actions and recommendations of the working groups and submit reports on this activity.
For more information, consult the website of the Information Society and Media Directorate-General on the eSafety initiative.