New cars on the European market will almost certainly have to incorporate autonomous emergency braking (AEB) if they are to achieve a EuroNCAP 5-star safety rating from 2014.
Figures from the European Commission (EC) suggest that universal fitment of AEB on all new European cars could potentially reduce the number of road accidents in the region by some 27%, saving approximately 8000 lives a year and reducing very significantly the number of people seriously injured.
AEB systems can warn a driver of an impending collision and if necessary support braking action to avoid, or mitigate the effects of, a collision. The technology typically uses radar for long-range sensing and either vision sensors or lasers for short range.
At an event in Brussels, Belgium, to mark EuroNCAP’s 15th anniversary, the independent consumer organization stated that from 2014, it will be “practically impossible” for new vehicles to receive a 5-star rating if they are not fitted with the system.
But a survey that it completed recently showed that AEB is not available on 79% of car models on sale in Europe and that 66% of manufacturers do not offer AEB on any of their new cars—figures that indicate great opportunities for suppliers in light of EuroNCAP’s statement and the importance placed by the buying public on the 5-star rating.
Said EuroNCAP Project Manager Aled Williams: “A small number of vehicle manufacturers now have systems on the market, but they don’t all work across the full speed range. Lower-cost vehicles typically avoid expensive radar systems by offering only operation at city speeds, but they are still very worthwhile as these speeds represent a high proportion of relevant impacts.”
Williams revealed that the organization’s goal is for all new cars to have systems that operate across the full speed range. “We recognize that this will only be achieved when fitment rates are high to bring costs down. We have seen the cost of airbags falling by a factor of 20 since they became standard, and we believe that substantial cost reduction will also be seen with AEB. We would like to accelerate that process.”
EuroNCAP Secretary General Michiel van Ratingen says that premium brands including Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Infiniti have the best levels of standard fitment: “Audi, Jaguar, Lexus, and Range Rover models also have high levels of availability of AEB as an option. And we are very pleased that some volume manufacturers are now making AEB systems available, too. These include Ford, Honda, Mazda, and Volkswagen, with Fiat expected to join this group midyear.”
The European Commission’s Head of Unit (Automotive Industry), Philippe Jean, has revealed that the EC is considering mandating AEB as part of the European Type Approval requirements, adding that AEB systems have been identified as the single tool with the greatest potential to reduce injuries and deaths. “The predicted reduction in death and injuries compares favorably with electronic stability control, which prevents a similar number of serious injuries each year but saves around half as many lives as we predict for AEB.”
The case for AEB also embraces economic aspects. Jean said that it was not possible to produce a precise figure for the cost of all Europe’s road accidents, but the EC estimated the figure for those that AEB would address as being between 5 billion euros and 8 billion euros a year. “The impact assessment studies we have carried out indicate that the resulting reduction in congestion due to accidents would represent an economic value of around 100 million euros in Germany alone.”
From November 2013, the European Type Approval of new commercial vehicles will require AEB to be fitted. From November 2015, every new commercial vehicle sold must have the technology fitted. So an extension to cars would be a natural progression.
EuroNCAP is now examining methods to assess the different types of AEB technologies.
The first AEB-equipped car to be demonstrated at the Brussels event was a Volvo S60, fitted with sensor technologies developed by Delphi. The car’s Collision Mitigation System (CMS) uses data fusion techniques to combine camera data with that from Delphi’s Electronically Scanning Radar (ESR). The fused data allows accurate detection and classification of objects in front of the vehicle, providing the quality of scene interpretation required to initiate an appropriate mitigation strategy.
Delphi states that it regards electronically scanning systems as being superior to previous mechanically scanning or multibeam systems because they combine what it describes as exceptional performance with robustness and compact dimensions. The use of solid-state electronics also makes them more affordable, helping to achieve wider market penetration, the company claims.