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How effective are in-vehicle safety technologies?

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

By: Strategic Consulting and Collision & Fleet Safety

Your focus on fleet safety likely has increased over the years because of both the human and financial cost of accidents. If you are looking to both increase safety for your employees and reduce accident-related costs, there are two main areas to focus on: your driver, and their vehicle. This article focuses on your fleet vehicles, specifically what to consider when evaluating advanced safety features, and how it can pay off for your fleet.

fleet safety

Since the invention of the automobile, crashes have prompted the invention of safety equipment designed to lessen the impact of those crashes, or to avoid them altogether. These innovations start as optional features in limited vehicles, eventually becoming base equipment to match consumer demand or government mandates. This has been the path of all innovations, including:

  • 2-Point seatbelts
  • 3-Point seatbelts
  • Intermittent wipers
  • Automatic braking
  • Antilock brakes
  • Traction control
  • Driver-side airbags
  • Passenger-side airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Rear backup cameras
  • Blindspot warnings

What are advanced driver assistance systems?

In recent years, a number of safety features have been introduced to the market known as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These are groups of technologies that assist drivers in driving and parking to increase safety. Active features are designed to prevent collisions while passive features are meant to mitigate damage when collisions are unavoidable. These include:

Active features

Passive features

  • Lane centering
  • Active brake assist
  • Collision avoidance systems
  • Automatic parking
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Emergency driver assist
  • Intersection assistants
  • Forward collision warning
  • Lane departure warming
  • Driver drowsy detection
  • Driver monitoring system
  • Lane change assistance

What are fleet management approaches to safety innovation?

Fleets that are sensitive to risk tend to be early adopters for safety equipment that is proven to reduce accident severity and/or reduce accident rates. For other fleets, cost savings is the main consideration.

When evaluating the inclusion of optional ADAS systems in vehicle selectors, you should consider the following:

  1. Is the technology reliable?
  2. Are there studies proving the technology effectiveness?
  3. What are the associated cost savings?
  4. Is it active or passive, and does this make a difference on effectiveness?

Other areas you should include in your evaluation of adding ADAS to a selector are:

  1. If the equipment is proven to increase driver safety, should it be limited only to employees eligible to the upgraded makes/models that offer it? Is this equitable?
  2. What is the driver adoption rate of this technology if it is passive?
  3. What kind of training will drivers need to operate vehicles with this equipment?
  4. Do we need to update our policies to cover expected use of this equipment?

What do you need to know about passive and active systems?

Passive ADAS systems provide alerts to drivers of dangerous situations, giving them time to respond. Sometimes these systems have settings drivers can control to minimize the intrusiveness of the alerts or can disable them altogether. Active systems may include alerts to drivers, but also act if the driver does not respond in time or does not have time to respond.

Your fleet policies will need to address the expected use of passive systems, including how the system settings should be arranged, and if they are permitted to disable it.

Driver training will likely be needed to address active systems, so your drivers are prepared and know what to expect when this equipment automatically engages while they are driving.

Most drivers will adopt use of ADAS features in their vehicles. However, a certain portion may wish to disable those they find “annoying.” A national study by the Erie Insurance Company found that 30% of drivers disabled adaptive cruise control, and 23% turn off the lane keeping assist features, mainly because of the annoyance, but also because they did not like the vehicle taking control.

How effective and reliable are ADAS technologies?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied the effectiveness of ADAS. Their findings were published in a 2020 report which showed:

  • Forward Collision Warning Plus Autobrake = ↓56% Front-to-rear crashes with injuries
  • Rear Auto Braking = ↓56% Backing crashes
  • Lane Departure Warning = ↓21% Injury crashes
  • Blind Spot Detection = ↓23% Lane-change crashes w/injuries
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert = ↓22% Backing crashes

The effectiveness of ADAS is impressive, however, there are certain situations which limit its reliability. When comparing different ADAS systems, you will likely find this information in the details of the vehicle manual. Here are some areas of limitations:

  • Using the wrong wiper blades, or not changing them as recommended can impact the effectiveness of forward collision warning systems.
  • Tires with bad bearings or low tread depth can trigger a false lane departure warning and reaction.
  • The equipment may not function properly at very low speeds or very high speeds.
  • Adaptive cruise control can falsely trigger deceleration going around curves.
  • Pre-Collision braking systems can be triggered unexpectedly in certain situations such as:
    • When passing hanging banners, flags, or branches,
    • In a drive-through car wash,
    • Passing through an automatic gate,
    • Driving close to a vehicle in front of you,
    • When the grade of the road changes rapidly,
    • When visibility is poor due to water vapor, water splashes, snow, dirt, or dust,
    • In adverse weather, such as heavy snow or snowstorms,
    • If the exhaust gas emitted by the vehicle in front is clearly visible in cold weather,
    • If there is an obstacle on a curve or intersection,
    • A vehicle or object is being narrowly passed,
    • Stopping very close to a wall or a vehicle in front,
    • Passing through water spray from road sprinklers.

These limitations make clear that ADAS is not a substitute for an alert, and trained driver. In fact, training may be even more essential to maximize the effectiveness of your investment in this technology.

Are you ready to take action?

If you are considering offering ADAS in your vehicle selectors, and need additional information to make your decision, Element can help with details about the features available, what to consider for policy adjustments, and share how fleets in your industry are making their decisions. Check out a recent case study from a service fleet of over 6,000 vehicles who benefited from ADAS technology or contact us to learn more.

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