Road Accident Prevention For Drivers!

Accident prevention from space?

Motor giant Ford are claiming that a satellite orbiting the earth could someday prevent car accidents, according to Dr Gerhard Schmidt, chief technical officer and vice president of research and advanced engineering for the company. Ford have been working with Auburn University in the USA to show that GPS satellites could help prevent accidents on the road by ‘talking’ to trucks, vans and cars. They have demonstrated that GPS satellites can precisely monitor a vehicle’s motion to such a degree that it improves the speed and effectiveness of electronic stability control systems. It is this communication, the team claims, which could help prevent serious accidents based on vehicle motion data.

Put simply, the GPS satellite can act as an ‘early warning system’ that detects when a vehicle is about to lose control. It could then, theoretically, communicate directly with the vehicle’s stability control systems and other safety features to prevent a serious accident. The project’s breakthroughs include developing algorithms that combine data from sensors within the vehicle that allows researchers to develop predictive models that can calculate a vehicle’s roll angle, sideslip and other velocities under various driving conditions. Although the research is still in its very early stages, it is hoped that this additional data could eventually lead to a satellite communicating with vehicles in the real world and, if not actually preventing every accident, then certainly doing a great deal to help mitigate the consequences.

Most people think of trips, slips or falls when they hear about accidents at work, but for those who drive for a living or have to drive as part of their job are running the same risks on the road every day as ordinary members of the public. In fact, statistics show that those who drive as part of their job are at much higher risk of having an accident. Research commissioned by the Department of the Environment has shown that even after annual mileage is taken into account, occupational drivers such as public transport drivers have up to 50% more vehicle accidents than private drivers. According to the study, drivers who do more than 80% of their annual mileage on work-related journeys have about 53% more road accidents than similar drivers with no work-related mileage. The statistics, when you break them down into more ‘human’ numbers, are horrific. Ten drivers die on UK roads every single day, and every year, work-related road traffic accidents result in 40,000 serious personal injuries. Because of the high mileage that most people who drive for a living do, the odds of becoming involved in a road traffic accident are much higher than for those who just drive to commute or for reasons not connected to their job. With such horrendous numbers impacting so many lives every year, anything that can help to reduce these statistics is to be welcomed.

Despite Ford suffering from the continuing and devastating economic crisis in the motor industry, the company is still pumping US$4million into research programmes this year, including 16 vehicle safety projects. If only a handful of these are successful, they could mean that the likelihood of being involved in a road traffic accident, whether during working hours or at any other time, could be reduced significantly. Human error is responsible for 97% of road traffic accidents. Perhaps it is time we started trusting technology more to think for us and to utilise whatever means we have to reduce the number of tragedies on the road every year. It would also make economic sense, with far fewer claims being brought against employers whose drivers are involved in road accidents during their business operations.

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