Mercedes-Benz Safety Assistance Systems: Every Accident is One Too Many

  • Mercedes-Benz as a long-time leader in the field of safety assistance systems
  • Policy objective: to halve the number of fatal road accidents
  • Significantly fewer accidents with automated emergency braking systems

Stuttgart. Truck safety is currently the subject of heated political debate. While some call for stricter laws, others demand a ban on the deactivation of assistance systems. In recent months, the media has also increasingly drawn attention to severe accidents at the tail end of traffic jams and between trucks and cyclists or pedestrians. As a year-on-year figure, the actual number of accidents in Germany has remained more or less constant in inner-city areas and has even fallen on motorways. Nonetheless, for Mercedes-Benz Trucks every one of these accidents is one too many. This is why Accident Research and Development are constantly working on systems to prevent accidents and on their systematic development. Mercedes-Benz is a long-time leader in this area. For example with automated emergency braking systems or with Sideguard Assist, which Mercedes-Benz is currently the only manufacturer worldwide to offer as a fully integrated system.

Stricter technical requirements to reduce accidents

Politicians are also supporting the subject of truck safety. And the target here is certainly an ambitious one: to halve the number of road fatalities within ten years. The systematic approach here has, for example, led to the obligation to equip newly registered trucks and coaches with automated emergency braking systems since November 2015 – and in November 2018 the technical requirements for such systems will be tightened. In the current revision of the directive on general vehicle safety, the EU Commission proposes, among other things, that all trucks and buses be equipped with mandatory turning assist systems from 2024. “As soon as the technical requirements for type approval of turning assist systems have been defined, all other manufacturers must follow the example of Mercedes-Benz. We welcome this as a contribution to improving traffic safety throughout Europe”, says Dieter Schoch, responsible for commercial vehicle safety in the field of politics and external relations at Daimler. The German government has also taken action to improve road safety. In mid-July, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer launched a nationwide campaign to promote the speedy retrofitting of existing trucks with turning assist systems. This forms the basis for financial support. The promotion of turning assist systems in new vehicles is supported financially by another federal programme. The installation of emergency braking assistance systems has been mandatory for new vehicles since November 2015, resulting in around 50 percent of long-haul transport vehicles being equipped with such a system.

Trucks with safety systems cause far fewer accidents

An analysis of actual accidents clearly shows that automated emergency braking systems have a very positive effect: current studies in Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg demonstrate that trucks equipped with such a system cause significantly fewer accidents than trucks without such a system. Schoch is convinced: “The quick mandatory introduction of a turning assist system would produce the same results.”

Detailed accident analysis needed to improve the systems

Furthermore, it is important to look very closely at how accidents actually occur in order to identify further potential for improvement. Mercedes-Benz conducts its own accident research and the results are incorporated both in the further development process for our systems and in discussions with lawmakers about future legal requirements. “We have extremely dynamic development here in the company”, Schoch says. “Sensor technology is constantly improving, algorithms are becoming more and more powerful, and the overall system design is increasingly sophisticated.” In addition, connectivity between vehicles, information from the road infrastructure and automation will become even more important in the future. This is why Mercedes-Benz supports the development of an integrated traffic safety strategy incorporating the vehicle, the driver and the infrastructure.

Ability to disable assistance systems required by law

There is currently also a public debate about the fact that even the best systems are useless if they can be disabled by the driver. But today’s systems have been developed to comply with laws that state that drivers must always have control over their vehicle. This is why the legislation originally stipulated that it must be possible to disable the systems. “In our view, however, this also makes sense if, for example, the sensor is covered by a front-mounted device such as a snowplow for road maintenance vehicles or in some highly complex traffic situations in the city,” says Schoch. The evolution of the technology, along with changes in the law, now provides an opportunity to reassess the room for maneuver, the debate about situation-dependent system disabling, automatic re-enabling and system override ability by the driver.

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