Zero accidents: a wish from father to son
Safety and Ethics
Automated driving features could reduce car crashes to virtually zero – saving millions of lives. A passionate supporter of this idea is Gökhan Tam. He has survived two horrific car accidents. For the sake of his son Levin, he wants AD to prevail.
Gökhan Tam was driving to work when his guardian angel appeared for the second time in his life. Tam, a 34 year old craftsman, suddenly noticed a flash through the rearview mirror. Before he could react, a van smashed into the rear of his car – at 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). “The sound was deafening, I will never forget it,” Tam says. His car skidded out of control. It crashed into the guardrail on the right side of the road. It bounced back, hit the left guardrail, and then the right one again, as if caught in a cruel game of ping pong.
“Then, all of a sudden, there was total silence.”
When the car finally came to a halt, the young father was in severe shock. But apart from that he had miraculously suffered only minor injuries.
“It was a blessing in disguise - again”, Tam says today. 11 years before Tam had already experienced a crash that might have cost his life. His car had collided with a truck on the highway. The impact had been so violent that Tam’s head was smashed against the windshield. “Thank God, back then I also got only slightly injured.”
His cousin had no guardian angel. In 2012, he too was involved in a car crash. He lost his life.
HUMAN ERROR – SOON A THING OF THE PAST?
His fate is part of a global tragedy. After 130 years of driving automobiles, mankind still struggles to make road traffic safe. 1.25 million people worldwide were killed on roads in 2014. It is a horrible figure – and yet one that mankind seems to strangely accept as fateful and inevitable. But this may change, dramatically.
With automation shaping up to revolutionize mobility, a long-standing dream of humanity suddenly seems within reach: to make road accidents a thing of the past.
There is one decisive factor in car crashes: human beings. Gökhan Tam knows that better than anyone: “People will make mistakes.” 90 percent of all car crashes are caused by human error. Technical failures only play a minor role. It’s humans who drive under the influence of alcohol. It’s humans who get distracted by their smartphone while driving. It’s humans who fall asleep behind the wheel when exhausted. And sometimes it’s humans simply taking the wrong decision when trying to avoid a crash.
As automation technology advances, all of these dangers can be eliminated.
AUTOMATION IS HERE TO STAY
To realize the “vision zero”, we won’t even need self-driving cars that take the human out of the loop completely. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which relieve and support the driver, will maximize safety in the near future. They’re doing it even today: an early example is the Electronic Stability Control which reduces skidding. First introduced by Mercedes in 1995, it has since become mandatory in the European Union, the United States and many more countries. Adaptive Cruise Control is a standard in many cars already, maintaining a safe distance from vehicles ahead.
By 2018, Road Departure Protection systems are expected to actively keep vehicles safely on the road by giving clear warnings if a distracted or exhausted driver is in danger of straying.
By the time cars run fully automated, they will also be able to communicate with each other and the surrounding infrastructure. Preceding cars will be able to warn vehicles behind them of dangers ahead. This will initiate a new era in which maximum safety is provided in a comfortable and intelligent way: emergency braking might become a rare phenomenon as cars will know about upcoming hazards far in advance. (Learn more about protective AD technology here)
PROTECTING THE FUTURE: OUR CHILDREN
For Gökhan Tam, these milestones cannot come soon enough. Ever since his six year old son Levin started school, Tam feels uneasy when Levin leaves for class each morning.
“He is passing a railway underpass and three crossings that have no traffic lights. We have taught him to be very careful. But still I have this fear that he could get hit by a car.” Tam knows from his own experience: “No matter how careful you are: sometimes your safety is out of your hands. You cannot influence how other people drive.”
For children and young adults between 10 and 24 years, road fatalities are still the most common cause of death worldwide. Gökhan Tam does not want to have to worry about his son anymore. “If automated driving has the potential to save so many lives, we should establish it as soon as possible!”
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