Uptake in vehicle safety systems sees UK road accidents drop

23 January 2018

23 January 2018

New driver assistance technology is aiding road safety in the UK, as research shows that seven in ten new vehicles are sold with systems that mitigate driver errors and prevent accidents.

Latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and JATO Dynamics shows that around 66.8% of new cars are offered with at least one self-activating safety system, either as standard or as an optional extra. Nearly 1.8 million new vehicles a year are now available with collision warning systems alone, up 20% on the previous year.

This is just one of a raft of technologies now in showrooms, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), parking assistance, adaptive cruise control and overtaking (or blind spot) sensors. AEB, for example, which automatically applies the brakes to avoid or reduce the effects of an impact, is available on more than half (53.1%) of new cars, with a quarter featuring the technology as standard. Meanwhile, overtaking sensors are available to 42.1% of buyers and Adaptive Cruise Control, which allows the car to slow down and speed up automatically to keep safe pace with the vehicle in front, to 36.2%.

Parking assistance technology, including cameras and sensors, is available as standard or an option on 58.8% of new cars. Consumers are also benefiting from the latest technology, which allows cars to park themselves in the tightest of spaces, and is now on nearly a quarter of a million vehicles registered.

These systems represent level 1 autonomy, as manufacturers increase investment in research of fully autonomous driving. As development increases vehicles will be brought to market with further accident prevention systems. Audi is the first company to launch Level 3 autonomy, in which drivers can completely shift ′safety-critical functions’ to the vehicle, under certain traffic or environmental conditions. However, while the new A8 features the potential of such systems, legislation in individual countries means it may not yet be able to be used on the roads.

Examples of exciting technology due to debut in showrooms in 2018 include Traffic Jam Pilot, where, in the right conditions, the car can take over the task of driving in slow moving traffic or queues; smartphone – or key fob-controlled remote parking; and pre-collision warning systems, which detect vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

Thanks to these innovations and more, road accidents in the UK have fallen by nearly 10% since 2012, and are set to fall further as manufacturers continually strive to develop ever more sophisticated technology to improve safety and the driver experience.

According to a 2015 report by SMMT and KPMG, connected and self-driving vehicle technology could reduce serious accidents by 25,000 and save 2,500 lives by 2030. Meanwhile, the annual saving to consumers through shorter journey times, lower fuel, insurance and parking costs, and the ability to multi-task could be as high as £40 billion (€45.5 billion), with the overall UK economic benefit amounting to some £51 billion (€58 billion).

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, comments: ′Safety is the number one priority for vehicle manufacturers and the pace of technological change is faster than ever before, with driver assistance technologies now available on the majority of vehicles cars. Fully autonomous cars may still be some way off, but millions of consumers are already enjoying the benefits of new technology which can only help make our roads safer.’