Ron Schindler at Chalmers Univeristy of Technology has developed a framework to increase the traffic safety for heavy trucks.
Each year, more than 1.1 million road crashes occur in Europe. Of these, 23,000 have a fatal outcome. And despite the fact that heavy trucks are involved in only about four percent of these crashes, their share in fatal crashes is three times higher. With his dissertation "A holistic safety benefit assessment framework for heavy goods vehicles", Ron Schindler, PhD student in the Crash Analysis and Prevention group at the division for Vehicle Safety at Chalmers, wants to find a way to increase road safety for heavy trucks. The result is a newly developed framework designed to better evaluate safety systems introduced for truck traffic.
“If we want to achieve the Vision Zero - no more traffic deaths - we need to address the over-representation of heavy goods vehicles in fatal crashes. With this framework, we can contribute to developers and society at large by getting better safety systems on the market and thereby reduce the number of collisions and injuries in the future,” says Ron Schindler.
Unique analysis of European truck collision data and driver behaviour
To increase traffic safety, we need to implement both active and passive safety systems. Seat belts and airbags are examples of two passive safety systems, i.e. systems that are activated when the collision has already taken place. In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on the development of active safety systems that are activated before the crash takes place, such as automatic braking systems. Before introducing new safety systems on the market, it is important that they are evaluated in an effective way, to ensure that only the best ones are used in traffic. Until now, a large part of the research in road safety has focused on passenger cars, and no effective ways of evaluating safety systems have been available.
“A lot of research has so far focused on cars, but they are completely different from heavy goods vehicles. The vehicle design itself looks completely different and, also, those who drive the different vehicles do so under very different circumstances. So, we cannot just use all the work and research that has been invested into passenger car drivers, but we needed to work with data related to heavy goods vehicles,” explains Ron.
When evaluating safety systems, virtual simulations based on driver behavior models are used. However, these models are based on drivers in passenger cars and information on how truck drivers behave in critical situations has not been available. To create an effective framework, Ron and his research colleagues have therefore analyzed data from truck collisions from all over Europe.
“We needed to collect data on typical crash patterns that involved heavy goods vehicles from various European crash databases. We have also collected and analyzed detailed driver behavior data from a test track experiment and developed a new methodology to create synthetic populations of drivers,” explains Ron.
The result is a unique framework that aims to provide manufacturers and system developers with a tool to understand how well a newly designed safety system would work in real truck traffic.
Paves the way for increased truck safety
In the study results, Ron and his research colleagues were able to see how the behavior of truck drivers changed in situations where so-called vulnerable road users - pedestrians and cyclists - were present. The research group could identify differences both in the trucks’ movement patterns as well as in the truck drivers gaze behavior when a vulnerable road user was nearby. The results have implications for new regulations and system evaluation strategies (such as done by Euro NCAP for example), and may not only be used when designing frameworks that evaluates safety systems, but can also inform the design of new safety systems for truck traffic in the future.
“If we can identify the driver's behavior change when a cyclist is present, we can suppress a warning to not "disturb" the driver. If a cyclist is present, but the driver behaves instead in a way that is normal for when no cyclist is present, a warning could be triggered as it is likely that the driver has not noticed the cyclist and that there is an imminent danger for a conflict or collision,” says Ron.
Ron Schindler, PhD student in the Crash Analysis and Prevention group at the division for Vehicle Safety at Chalmers at the department of Mechanics and Maritime sciences, Chalmers.
Text: Lovisa Håkansson