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Mr Erkki Liikanen

Member of the European Commission, responsible for Enterprise and the Information Society

"ITS in Road Safety within the framework of eEurope"

Safety Seminar in Auto World

Brussels, 21 November 2001

1. Introduction

During the last decade, the European Union and the EU Member States have been very active in promoting measures to improve road safety.

Most of the measures supported focused on accident prevention, through better driver education and training. Or they focused on modifications to the traffic infrastructure and regulations. Or by improving the vehicle through passive safety measures, so as to reduce the risk or severity of injury.

These actions contributed to the continuous reduction of the number of killed on European roads.

The situation has certainly improved in recent years. But still, the number of road accident and the number of road victims is still high in the European Union, with around 41 000 fatalities and 1.6 million injuries a year. Unless this pattern changes, roughly one in every 80 European citizens will be killed on the roads and one in three will, at least once in his life, need hospital treatment after an accident.

In addition, even though the number of fatalities and injuries on EU roads have decreased, the number of accidents is still increasing.

Lastly, conventional measures like for example passive safety features are reaching their limits. Improvements in safety, by these measures, are becoming more and more difficult and expensive.

There is a need for action.

2. The challenge

Last month the European Commission presented the White Paper on European Transport policy for 2010. In The White Paper, the Commission sets a very ambitious target for road safety. A 50% reduction of road fatalities by 2010. That should bring the number of death per year down to 20.000.

This is the challenge.

3. The Solution

The solution to this challenge relies on a global and integrated approach to safety where actions will address the pre-crash phase, the crash phase and the post-crash phase. An approach where prevention campaigns, active and passive safety measures, traffic regulations, information technologies, innovations and new rules or commitments must play a significant role.

This needs to be an integrated approach taking into account the involvement of and interaction between the driver, the vehicle, and the road infrastructure in improving road safety.

All the relevant parties and key players, like National Governments, the European institutions, the industry, the technology providers, the consumers and the insurance companies, have a role to play in making this approach work and reducing the number of road accidents and casualties.

In this approach, special focus needs to be put now on new measures and systems based on information and communication technologies that are offering new "intelligent" solutions to improve road safety and reduce the number of accidents on our roads.

The focus must be on the pre-crash phase when the accident can still be avoided or at least its severity significantly reduced.

We know that almost 95% of the accidents are due to the human factor and that in almost 75% of the cases the human behaviour is solely to blame. It is clear that our failings as drivers represent a significant safety risk to ourselves, and other road users. One way to reach this goal is to realise the potential of Advanced Driver Assistant Systems (ADAS) and Intelligent Active Safety.

With the introduction of ICT related components in the car, active safety has started to become intelligent. With the development of appropriate sensors, actuators and processors, we have already seen the development and wide spread implementation of ABS and stability systems, which help the driver when he has exceeded the vehicle's 'normal' boundaries of control.

We are now looking towards the next generation of systems, the Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (or ADAS). These systems will take into account not just the driver and the vehicle, but also the environment around the vehicle.

By receiving information from outside of the vehicle, the systems will be able to assess the risk of an accident occurring, and can either warn the driver, so that he can take appropriate action, or initiate appropriate action itself.

The objective is to assist in accident avoidance; not only to reduce the impact of accidents but to first of all reduce the total number of accidents, and consequently to reduce their impact.

Technological developments and the introduction of intelligent active safety systems on road vehicles will enhance safety and security, as already demonstrated by a number of Community Research projects.

Advanced solutions are in some cases already there. Unfortunately there is still an important gap between technology development and its implementation in the market at a reasonable cost. What is needed is a clear assessment of these new safety systems in terms of their impact on the reduction of accidents. We need to foster their large-scale deployment and build awareness and demand, accelerate the introduction in the market of these devices, and supporting their take-up.

4. Role of the Commission and the Member States

The European Union and the Member States, have considerable responsibility together with the industry for encouraging this deployment of innovative solutions that have to lead to the introduction of safer vehicles on the market.

We believe that vehicles with innovative intelligent active safety systems and a move towards integrated safety concept (vehicle driver infrastructure) hold out the prospect of even 50% reduction of road deaths.

5. eEurope2002

The market introduction of intelligent safety systems is also one of the key objectives of the eEurope2002 Action Plan.

The specific targets were set in this action plan:

  • All new vehicles sold in Europe should be equipped with more efficient Active Safety Systems from 2002 onwards;

  • All mobile citizens in Europe should have access to localisation of emergency calls to 112 number, multi-lingual support and full provision of emergency services by 2002.

Community Research Framework Programmes strongly supports the development of Active Safety and Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems technologies. Through the Information Society Technology programme, Intelligent Vehicle Cluster consists of 33 projects, with total value of 136 million €. The deployment of these safety systems has already started, and some will be standard features in 2002 models. It includes projects on trucks.

The implementation of the location enhanced 112 emergency calls have been debated for over two years in a co-ordination group involving all Member States, and the Commission intends to prepare a regulation in this field.

The eEurope2002 Action Plan stays strongly on the political agenda of the European Union, and it also provides an impetus for the research, development and deployment actions for Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems and Active Safety Systems, including major research efforts in the future Community Framework Programme in Research (FP6).

As an important step in the continuing of the activities under the eEurope2002 Action Plan, the European Commission is preparing together with the industry a comprehensive Action Plan on Active Safety (e-Safety).

This plan is to be proposed by the Commission soon and it is expected to encourage industry, at the highest level, to support a roadmap for the introduction of further Active Safety measures. It should create an important forum for discussing market implications of these technologies, for guiding the introduction of new technologies for road safety at a European level, and for assessing their impact.

Road safety, from a vehicle perspective is an issue that has to be tackled globally, as it is a global problem with vehicles being designed for a global market.

Therefore, Europe will seek ways to collaborate with countries outside the EU boundaries in research and development, awareness, and especially user acceptance, security and impact measurement of the new technologies for safety and the establishment of internationally agreed standards.

This is the vision on which the e-Safety Action Plan will be based.

At the eSafety Congress in Lyon (on 16-18 September 2002) , we will take stock where we are in research and deployment and other critical issues around eSafety.

6. Conclusions

Improving road safety is a wide issue that requires a global and integrated approach. The Commission has set an ambitious target to reduce the number of fatalities on our roads by 50% by 2010. Conventional measures will have to be combined with innovative solutions and the mobilisation of new technology.

With the eEurope2002 Action Plan, the European Commission has created the momentum for Europe's transformation into a Mobile Information Society and, in transport, for the development and deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems. Major progress has been achieved in all the goals set in the 2002 Action Plan.

The White Paper on Transport is also indicating the way to go for road safety.

The e-Safety Action Plan will be more focused on intelligent technologies to improve road safety, and is being prepared by the Commission with the automotive industry.

All the ingredients are there. We need now to work hard to reach these objectives and make our roads safer.

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