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Bosch tackles driver drowsiness

01 May 2012

Fatigue and microsleep at the wheel are often the cause of serious accidents, but the initial signs of fatigue can be detected before a critical situation arises. Bosch Driver Drowsiness Detection can do this by monitoring steering movements and advising drivers to take a break in time.
 
The required information is provided either by the car’s electric power steering system, or by the steering angle sensor, which is part of the car's ESP anti-skid system.  The feature can therefore be installed cost-effectively and helps further increase road safety.
 
Bosch Driver Drowsiness Detection can be used in passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, and can also be integrated into various control units in vehicles.  It was first introduced as a standard feature in 2010, in the new Volkswagen Passat. The latest model with the function is the new Passat Alltrack.  The influence of fatigue on accidents has been demonstrated in a number of studies. In 2010, the American Automobile Association (AAA) published an analysis based on the accident data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States.
 
The assess¬ment showed that overtired drivers were at the wheel in 17 percent of all fatal accidents in the US.  Fading concentration and fatigue compromise the driver’s steering behavior and response time. Fine motor skills deteriorate, and steering behavior becomes less precise. The driver corrects small steering mistakes more often.
 
The new driver drowsiness detection function is based on an algorithm which begins recording the driver’s steering behavior the moment the trip begins.  It then recognizes changes over the course of long trips, and thus also the driver's level of fatigue.
 
Typical signs of waning concentration are phases during which the driver is barely steering, combined with slight, yet quick and abrupt steering movements to keep the car on track.  Based on the frequency of these movements and other parameters, among them the length of a trip, use of turn signals, and the time of day, the function calculates the driver's level of fatigue.  If that level exceeds a certain value, an icon such as a coffee cup flashes on the instrument panel to warn drivers that they need a rest.
 
The Bosch Driver Drowsiness Detection function addresses an important aspect of the driver's condition, and can thus contribute to improving road safety.

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Motorists are ill-prepared for a puncture ......

01 May 2012

...... research suggests

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Fleets foot the bill for driver offences

01 May 2012

The policies of some fleets are being called into question after research revealed a majority of drivers avoid having to pay fines and charges.
 
More than half of drivers surveyed said parking fines were not passed on, while four out of every five escaped end-of-contract charges or forking out for accident damage.  It means cash-strapped companies up and down the country are footing the bill because they are failing to hold company car and van drivers to account.
 
Tracey Scarr, fleet and road safety manager at Arval, which was named Safe Fleet of the Year at the Fleet News Awards, was surprised by the survey’s findings.  She said: “Surely the company can’t be held responsible for where a driver decides to park? He or she makes that decision.  It’s simple, if a driver gets a parking fine, they pay. Why would the company choose to pick up the cost of a parking fine? It doesn’t make financial sense.”
 
The survey of more than 200 at-work drivers from across the country was commissioned by ALD Automotive and revealed that 48.9% had paid or would expect to pay a parking fine, while 51.1% don’t have to pay a penny.
 
Frances Warburton, account development manager at ALD Automotive, said: “It’s very common among our customer base to pass on the parking fine to the driver and charge them an administration fee.  Ultimately, it’s their responsibility, so they should be expected to pay.”
 
However, charging drivers for damage to a company vehicle can be a thornier issue for fleets to grasp.  There is a need to have a clear, concise policy in place, which is well communicated to all at-work drivers and leaves their responsibilities in no doubt.  Scarr, who operates a fleet of more than 300 cars, said her drivers were charged an excess if they had more than one at-fault accident in a rolling 12-month period.
 
She explained: “Our goal has never been around trying to recover any money. It’s about ensuring lessons are learned and discussing the incident with the driver.  It’s important to understand what’s happened, how it could have been prevented and ultimately where did the fault lay – we talk to everybody about every incident.”
 
The survey showed that just 16.7% of drivers had paid or would expect to pay for damage to their vehicle – a staggering 83.3% said they did not pick up any costs.  Warbuton said: “We are quite often asked how other businesses deal with this issue; they want to follow what others do and look to us for guidance.  Interestingly, it’s important to individual employers to know that they are not too draconian or lenient compared to other businesses within their sector.”
 
She continued: “It’s also quite common for customers to stagger their recharge costs for accidents and, while some will apply to all accidents, some only choose to charge for at-fault accidents.”  But Warburton warned fleets to be aware of the potential “massive” increase in non-fault accidents if an at-fault-only recharge policy was introduced.
 
The temptation proves too great for some drivers to take responsibility for minor prangs and the number of bumps or dents happening to vehicles that have been left in car parks start to increase.  One method used by some fleets to overcome this problem is for the driver to be charged an excess if the company can’t claim from a third party.
 
Ian Green, group and fleet manager at Peverel, said at a recent Fleet News roundtable that since it had introduced the policy “hit while parked had gone right down”.
 
Fleets face further costs when defleeting and the fair wear and tear of leased vehicles, together with potential excess mileage charges, are taken into account.  The survey revealed that 15.4% of drivers had paid or would expect to pay end-of-contract charges, while 84.6% would not.
 
“It can be difficult for some fleets to enforce,” admitted Warburton, “especially if drivers swap cars and, while many do enforce charges for lost keys, most will still take the hit.  But whatever way a fleet chooses to pass on any of these costs, whether parking fines, end-of-contract charges or damage to a vehicle, the clear communication of a robust set of policies is vitally important.”

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Potholes put fleets on repair alert

01 May 2012

The increase in potholes, reported by the latest roads survey, will mean more vehicles on the road with damaged or defective windscreens, warns National Mobile Windscreens.
 
The survey by the Asphalt Industry Alliance found that:
 •There is an £800 million funding shortfall in local authority budgets for highway maintenance;
•It will take an estimated 11 years to make up the backlog of work;
•It will cost an estimated £10 billion “one-off cost” to get the roads up to a reasonable condition;
•Complaints over the state of the roads have increased 10%, and compensation claims are soaring;
 
“Our safety surveys of major vehicle fleets show that some 20% of vehicles have damaged or defective windscreens, and this will only increase as the state of our roads continue to deteriorate,” said Martyn Bennett, sales and marketing director.  “Many of the defects we find require immediate attention, while many others can lead to a glass failure if repairs or replacement are delayed.”
 
National Mobile Windscreens say that while some fleet operators are getting their vehicles checked and repaired, others may be reluctant to spend time carrying out general windscreen safety inspections, or postponing any repair work because of their demanding work schedules.
 
“But it is important to identify any vehicle glass defect and to delay any repair or replacement is a false economy.  A damaged windscreen can fail at any time and it is better to have the work carried out when it is convenient rather than as a last-minute emergency,” he said.

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General Motors road tests self-drive technology

25 April 2012

Cadillac is road testing a semi-autonomous technology in America called ‘Super Cruise’ that is capable of fully automatic steering, braking and lane-centering, saying the system could be ready for production vehicles by mid-decade.
 
Super Cruise is designed to ease the driver’s workload on the road, in both bumper-to-bumper traffic and on long road trips by relying on a fusion of radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and GPS map data.
 
“Super Cruise has the potential to improve driver performance and enjoyment,” said Don Butler, vice president of Cadillac marketing. “Our goal with advanced technologies is to lead in delivering an intuitive user experience.”
 
The key to delivering semi-autonomous capability will be the integration of lane- centering technology that relies on forward-looking cameras to detect lane markings and GPS map data to detect curves and other road characteristics, said John Capp, General Motors director of Global Active Safety Electronics and Innovation.  Even when semi-autonomous driving capability is available on vehicles, the system will have operational limitations based on external factors such as weather and visibility of lane markings. When reliable data is unavailable, the driver will need to steer.
 
“The primary goal of GM’s autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle development is safety,” Capp said. “In the coming years, autonomous driving systems paired with advanced safety systems could help eliminate the crash altogether by interceding on behalf of drivers before they’re even aware of a hazardous situation. More than ever, consumers will be able to trust their car to do the right thing.”

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