Why are Swedes so preoccupied with safety?
How will society and its transport systems change over the next twenty years? What are the differences between Japanese, American and European approaches to traffic safety? How do you build safe, sustainable transportation infrastructures? For answers to questions such as these, welcome to SAFER – the Vehicle and Traffic Safety Centre at Chalmers.
Already they steal more than a million lives each year and vast socio-economic resources. Yet over the next ten years, it is estimated that traffic accidents will become the world’s third largest health problem. Building on decades of cooperation between Chalmers and the Swedish automotive industry, SAFER is a collaborative research platform designed to counteract this development. Its 22 partners come from industry, academia and various relevant authorities. And what the Swedish automotive industry lacks in size, SAFER makes up for in Swedishness: the ability to team up, to get things done, and to evaluate the effects in real life.
Transporting the way we think about accidents
While progress in accident prevention needs to combine niche know-how in areas such as vehicle dynamics, behavioural science and sensor technology, the collection and correct interpretation of data are often pivotal. For the pre-crash phase, for example, some studies use the Driver Reliability and Error Analysis Method (DREAM) to understand the cause of an accident. But relying on interviews with the individuals involved creates a level of uncertainty that is difficult to validate.
Now, following a parallel collaboration with Michigan Department of Transport and Japan Automobile Research Institute, SAFER has made key insights casting new light on the study of accident causes. In both cases, naturalistic studies involving in-car sensor equipment and video surveillance of real drivers – in real traffic – have provided Jonas Bärgman and his team with a unique database of incidents (the younger siblings of accidents). This combination of qualitative and quantitative real-life data opens up new possibilities.
Synchronicity in Europe
To establish the benefits of in-car intelligent safety systems, the first European Field Operational Test of its kind, EuroFOT, is currently being carried out. Of course, this is a perfectly timed opportunity for SAFER – and European traffic safety. Sharing its expertise in gathering and processing huge amounts of data, SAFER can explore how drivers interact with intelligent safety systems while developing more efficient tools for traffic safety analysis.
A class in worldwide teamwork
According to SAFER’s director, Anna Nilsson-Ehle, the interdependent nature of being one of 22 partners forces each organisation to formulate their research questions more sharply.
"This helps each group to identify their real competencies – and provides the appropriate collaboration to locate necessary partners. Only then can we truly work together; build trust and meet our challenges. And this is how to implement your research into the real world faster than others."
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