Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems supports the aims of the newly launched Road to Zero coalition – whose mission is to eliminate traffic deaths within the next 30 years – along with the role of driverless technologies in helping to meet the target goal. But the company also believes an incremental approach to the development of the technologies is essential. The driving public, Bendix urges, must be given enough time to fully understand how the systems work – and how they affect driver responsibility – at each new level of advancement.
Announced last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Road to Zero coalition teams three DOT agencies – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – with the National Safety Council. The DOT has committed $1 million a year over the next 3 years to provide grants to organizations working on programs to save lives.
The department noted that 2015 marked the largest increase in traffic deaths since 1966. For the first half of 2016, the DOT said, the increase has continued, as preliminary estimates show fatalities are up about 10.4% compared to the number in the first half of 2015.
Rapid introduction of automated vehicles and advanced technologies, according to the department, is making it increasingly likely that the vision of zero road deaths and serious injuries is attainable in the next 30 years.
“The target of zero deaths is what drives all of us involved in safety technology development. At Bendix, we applaud the agencies for publicly owning that goal – and defining an approach and timeline that give them a realistic chance of accomplishing it,” says Fred Andersky, Bendix Director of Government and Industry Affairs. “We can’t rush the movement toward driverless vehicles, however. Doing so may create more problems than we solve. Rushing and hyping technologies before the public understands how they really work and what it means in terms of driver responsibility is a path to disaster. Driverless is evolutionary, not revolutionary.”
As the North American leader in the development and manufacture of active safety and braking solutions for commercial vehicles, Bendix is a key participant in this evolution. The company’s advanced driver assistance systems – such as Bendix Wingman Fusion, a groundbreaking collision mitigation technology that includes braking on stationary objects, and speed sign alert and action – are helping to serve as the foundation of even more advanced autonomous applications to come in the industry. Lane keeping is one example.
“The technology pathway to zero fatalities has to be built incrementally, with the advancements in driver assistance systems being the stepping stones from autonomous applications to driverless vehicles,” Andersky says. “This approach will allow drivers and the public to understand clearly what is happening and what their responsibilities are at each step – to ensure a safe, effective evolution from driver-involved technologies to driverless systems.”
Today’s technologies, Andersky emphasizes, are driver assistance systems and must not be treated or viewed as driver replacements. Responsibility for the safe operation of a driver assistance system-equipped vehicle is always in the hands of the driver. Driver assistance and other Bendix safety technologies are intended to complement safe driving practices, and not to encourage or enable aggressive driving. Highway safety remains dependent upon skilled, alert drivers practicing safe driving techniques, as well as comprehensive, proactive training programs.
Andersky reiterates Bendix’s backing of the Road to Zero coalition.
“Bendix supports the zero fatalities target,” he says, “and we will continue efforts with our OEs and partners to maintain our momentum and help achieve this goal.”