Issue 13 • March 2022

Welcome to issue number 13 of the Just Auto magazine

Ukraine crisis adds another big sector headwind to concern us all, but safety still matters 

The semiconductor crisis and the supply chain disruption it has wrought for the automotive industry, is far from over. Indeed, companies have been consistently saying that a significant easing of critical parts shortages is not expected until the second half of this year.  

However, attention has been dramatically diverted lately to events in Ukraine. An unexpected war in Europe has raised questions about effects and responses on multiple levels: humanitarian, political, economic, business. Uncertainties and the spectrum of possible outcomes remains very, very large and extend way beyond the two countries directly embroiled in military conflict. 

Automotive market forecasts are inevitably being revised down because of the impacts of the crisis. However, in times of crisis, companies should not lose sight of their longer term aims, particularly when it comes to investing in essential advanced technologies (such as advanced driver assistance systems – ADAS) for enhanced safety, or measures to improve sustainability and lower carbon footprints. 

Let's not lose sight of an essential truth: Safety matters. 

It’s a grim thought but, around 1.35 million people in the world die each year because of road traffic crashes and someone dies on the roads every 24 seconds. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability because of their injury. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than half of all road traffic deaths are among vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. And poor countries fare the worst: 93% of the world's fatalities on the roads occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have just 60% of the world's vehicles. 

There is, of course, much that can be done by governments to address road safety and mitigate risks to all road users. Besides traffic laws (and their enforcement), there is also the provision of effective street furniture and the promotion of wider education policies, which should start with children. Developing a motoring culture that places safety near the top of priorities doesn't happen overnight, but there is a gathering momentum behind initiatives across the world to make automobiles and their use safer. 

Here in 2022, sophisticated safety systems and their constant refinement is seen as a given to meet both regulatory requirements and rising consumer expectations. Companies are pursuing the goal of reducing the frequency and severity of accidents by developing active and passive driving assistance systems. Driver assistance systems aim to make the vehicle capable of perceiving its surroundings, interpret them, identify critical situations, and assist the driver in performing driving manoeuvres. 

The objective is, at best, to prevent accidents completely and, at worst, to minimise the consequences of an accident for those concerned. The technological solutions being fitted to cars are undoubtedly impressive, levered off rapid advances in core technologies in areas such as imaging, radar and LiDAR (laser light) and smart systems that interpret the data. The digital and electronic packaging of the extensive hardware and software is also a challenge that the industry is rising to meet. 

Driver assistance systems use a combination of warnings and some degree of active intervention to help steer the driver away from trouble. Although the accent is on giving assistance to the driver rather than take control away, motorists are still wary about cars that supposedly drive themselves. While active intervention clearly holds many possibilities, it is also fraught with difficulty. 

The most common suite of driver assistance technologies available today includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems, and parking assistance systems. 

Radar-based safety technologies such as advance collision warning and blind-spot detection are becoming commonplace. As the industry at large contemplates the move towards highly advanced autonomous and driverless transportation, the direction of travel seems clear - towards a safer future where accidents caused by human driver error are steadily reduced.  

It should be remembered though, that the unpredictable human element is still very much with us. Drivers still need to buckle up their seatbelts, avoid alcohol, leave their cell phones alone and comply with speed limits. At least, that all applies while we do have human drivers on public roads. 

For the foreseeable future, humans will still be in the driving seat, assisted by some very clever safety tech. Let's just hope the supply chain can keep up with demand.  

Dave Leggett, Editor