TNO supports the European ambition to reduce the number of fatalities in road traffic to zero. Focus for TNO is on vulnerable road user safety in urban areas: pedestrians and cyclists. Together with the industry significant steps are taken to introduce systems onboard of cars. However, to arrive at zero fatalities in traffic, an integral approach is required in the combination of three factors: car, infrastructure and human behavior.
In recent years the number of traffic fatalities has fallen, particularly of occupants of cars and vans as well as motorcyclists, but the fall has been much less for cyclists. And the popularity of (electric) bicycles is rising. So TNO is working with industry on new solutions that could drastically cut the incidents of accidents involving bicycles. Science and industry have long focused on systems to boost traffic safety, as in the seatbelt and airbag. Now there has been a shift from passive to active safety with all the focus on systems that promptly warn the driver or can even intervene and take control of the car.
TNO is working on systems for both car and bicycle, such as cyclist airbags on the outside of the car and technologies in the bicycle to avoid unilateral accidents. In developing new technologies TNO always works with a combination of three factors: vehicle, infrastructure and human behavior.
Out of sight
TNO-expert Olaf op den Camp: "Research has shown that human error causes most accidents. Which is why we work on solutions like autonomous and cooperative driving in which technology is assisting driver tasks." Active safety systems already installed in cars have their limitations in terms of range and sight lines. A cyclist or pedestrian who is about to cross the street outside the range of the sensor(s) - for example, to the rear of a truck - is detected too late or not at all. This presented TNO with the challenge of developing a system that reliably detects, tracks and predicts the most vulnerable participants in traffic especially when they are crossing the street.
"Many accidents can be prevented by such a system. If a cyclist suddenly crosses the road, there is too little time to avoid a collision but if an intelligent in-car system can determine position, speed and direction of a cyclist in time and make a prediction, the driver can react seconds earlier" explains Op den Camp.
Europe's most innovative crossroads
TNO is working with industry on solutions whereby sensors in vehicles and roadside systems register the behavior of cyclists and transmit this to approaching cars. In 2015 the first tests shall be undertaken at a crossroads in Helmond specially equipped with the latest technologies. It is here that TNO wants to demonstrate that the fatal consequences of accidents involving cyclists can be prevented or injuries restricted in many cases. In preparing the crossroads in Helmond TNO works closely with the municipal authorities, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, and industry. TNO wants to demonstrate that wireless communication between cars, bicycles and the road can have a real impact on traffic safety. Cyclists can be detected by cars, also outside the visual range of the driver. TNO will measure how many critical situations occur and how effective the system is in practice. Never before has this solution been demonstrated on public crossroads.