Efficiency and Safety Are Focus on Challenge Bibendum in Shanghai
With a death toll of 1.2 million each year worldwide on the roads and 50 million injured, 80% of whom live in developing or low-to-average income countries, road safety is becoming a major concern. Indeed, WHO (World Health Organization) has recently reported that road traffic is the eleventh biggest health issue worldwide.
For this Shanghai-based Challenge Bibendum, organizers decided to highlight the theme with a full-fledged conference. Placed under the onus of WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development), the conference shed new light on the issue, with contributions from WHO, the World Bank, GRSP (Global Road Safety Partnership) as well as a Chinese spokesman, a Japanese spokesman and two representatives from industry (Ford and Bosch).
All parties fully recognized the severity of the situation. China considers road safety one of its top four priorities on its transport agenda along with energy, traffic congestion and the environment. Nearly 100,000 people die every year on Chinese roads, where motor vehicles, two-wheels and pedestrians vie for space. All recognized the challenge posed by the difficulty of collecting reliable data on road casualties, regardless of country, but stressed that it was crucial to have a consistent approach to reporting casualties and maintaining reliable records of victims in order to develop appropriate action plans. One key observation was that road accident prevention must be viewed as a shared responsibility, involving users, public authorities and industry.
Carmakers highlighted the resources devoted to enhancing vehicle safety. Significant progress has already been achieved in the area of passive safety (with airbags and automatic locking seat belts, for example) and active safety features such as anti-block brakes (ABS) and lane change assistance. Now, the focus is on integrated safety and cars will gradually incorporate a full range of driving assistance systems. These will be capable of predicting potential accidents, avoiding them where possible and activating emergency assistance through communications systems that link the vehicle to road infrastructure in the event of a crash.
Bosch for its part noted that ABS wheel antiblocking systems had become standard equipment in Europe and had jumped to 70% in China for new cars. The manufacturer pointed out that the next step would probably be to extend the use of Electric Stability Program (ESP) to prevent the loss of control in bends. Thirty-five percent of cars are equipped with this system in Europe as compared to 11% in the United States of America and even less in China. This, however, is bound to evolve as it has been shown that ESP cut accident risk by 25 to 50% for passenger cars and up to 67% for larger vehicles such as four-wheel drive SUVs.
Technology therefore, brings part of the answer to the issue of road safety. However, challenges remain and, as this conference shows, all parties are willing to work together to improve road safety, a key component of sustainable mobility.
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