Road Safety: The lessons of the deadly SUV accident

It's not clear yet, for what reason last Saturday the driver of a Porsche Macan in Berlin raced into a pedestrian group at excessive speed, Maybe had he suffered an epileptic seizure, Confusion also causes why the car did not delay, although the brake lights lit up, But that does not stop many experts and politicians from drawing traffic policy conclusions and calling for a ban on the much-hated SUVs in inner cities. At the same time it is being discussed whether technical systems will prevent accidents such as these with four dead pedestrians in the future or mitigate their consequences, But basically only autonomous cars can do that – with all its technical and moral implications.

In the debate are called automatic emergency braking systems, which are to prevent a collision of the car with other road users. For example, in May 2019, Mercedes-Benz presented an improved emergency brake assistant in a safety study. "If, for example, a collision with pedestrians or cyclists threatens to cross the street into which the vehicle turns, the driver will be warned visually and acoustically"Mercedes promised. If necessary, an autonomous braking.

Tesla's AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) system detects pedestrians and cyclists crossing the car's lane.

EU regulation calls for emergency brake assistants

Already there are assistance systems that can detect a jam end and automatically initiate emergency braking before a collision. At Audi, the system is called Pre Sense, in BMW iBrake, at Daimler Pre-Safe-Bremse and at Volkswagen Front Assist. Expected in 2022, such emergency braking systems could be prescribed for new cars, For pedestrians and cyclists, it is crucial that the sensor systems such as cameras, laser scanners and radars recognize them reliably.

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A new EU regulation, due to enter into force in 2022, also provides for such "Notbremsassistenzsysteme" in front. The parliamentary proposal (PDF) demands in a second phase the "Extending the ability to detect pedestrians and cyclists in front of the motor vehicle", Also mandatory is a "intelligent speed assistant" based on the position data and traffic signs.

Speed ‚Äč‚Äčlimit makes sense

However, these speed assistants are far from preventing an accident like last Saturday in Berlin or restricting its consequences. Their task is, according to Article 6 of the draft Regulation (PDF) only, "that the driver is made aware, via the accelerometer, or through targeted, adequate and effective feedback, that the applicable speed limit is exceeded", In addition, the regulation clearly stipulates: "The ability of the driver to exceed the vehicle speed requested by the system must not be compromised."

This means that if the driver deliberately or due to a health impairment significantly exceeds the speed limit, nothing happens initially. Only before a possible collision could the emergency braking systems intervene. It would be technically no problem to use so-called speed limiters in inner cities. These limit the speed to the set limit, no matter how boldly the driver steps on the gas or accelerator pedal.

This is especially useful for electric cars, whose high torque in city traffic means that the speed limit can be quickly exceeded. The Hyundai Ioniq Elektro tested by and the Audi E-Tron have such limiters. However, with the E-Tron, the set speed can be overruled when the accelerator pedal passes over the resistor (kick down).