Research has shown that driver error is one of the most common causes of traffic accidents. Driver assistance technologies can therefore provide a vital helping hand in times of trouble.

But surveys show that many drivers assign low priority to ‘out of sight’ safety items such as anti-lock brakes (which are now mandatory in Europe), stability control and radar-controlled cruise control.

The most popular comfort and safety features that UK drivers want in their cars are items such as satellite navigation, climate control, airbags, iPod ports and nifty add-ons such as cup and mobile phone holders.

Some manufacturers believe that if insurers offer a lower premium to drivers of cars with driver assistance systems fitted on their cars, then it would stimulate demand. This was the case in the early stages of the introduction of anti-lock braking systems (ABS), when insurance companies offered a lower premium for vehicles fitted with the safety device.

Discussions with insurance groups are ongoing, though progress is reportedly slow.

However, the automotive industry is convinced that a host of driver assistance technologies are coming, accompanied by the European Union’s eSafety action programme for road safety, which aims to halve the number of EU road fatalities by 2010.

Driver assistance systems on the detection and analysis of the vehicle’s surroundings will make a major contribution to the achievement of this aim. Investigations carried out by the German Ministry of Transport have shown that such systems can have a preventive influence on more than 50% of all accidents.

Driver assistance systems – either on the road or still on the drawing board – divide into three camps:

  • Collision-warning systems – this is the original term for forward and side radar systems which simply alert the driver but do not control engine speed.
  • Collision-mitigation systems – in addition to sending out a warning to the driver — either through audio, visual or vibrating the steering wheel — these systems aim to assess the danger ahead and trigger various active safety features, such as pretensioning the seatbelts.
  • Collision-avoidance systems – using these systems mean that some degree of control is taken over from the driver if he or she doesn’t react in time to avoid a crash.

In defining driver assistance technologies, an auto executive told just-auto: “We prefer to talk about collision mitigation rather than collision avoidance. That’s because we can’t see accident-free traffic happening for some time. In the meantime we will look for everything to help to avoid accidents but we know that we will not be 100% successful. So what we see in the near future is driver assistance, i.e. systems that support the driver in his or her tasks, relieving them of the mundane activities.

“It also helps in critical driving situations. When we started developing driver assistance systems, they were perceived as comfort and convenience systems. But now it has changed a little bit in the direction of safety. That means that the driver feels that he or she has a safety technology when buying a driver assistance system. And we see that trend increasing in the future.”

The most common suite of driver assistance technologies available today includes adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane change assistance, and parking assistance systems.

The full report, ‘Global market review of driver assistance systems – forecasts to 2013’ is available for purchase from just-auto’s online research store.

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