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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2011 18:19 
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Hi,

I am a journalist covering the M5 crash for for Channel 4 News. I have just finished a piece looking at how technology can help reduce fatalities on Britain's motorways. It looks at what car manufacturers are doing and also how highway engineers are seeking to make motorways safer.

http://www.channel4.com/news/how-engineers-and-car-makers-are-making-driving-safer

You can also find links to other coverage of the crash from the article.

Rosie


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2011 23:45 
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Hi Rosie and :welcome:

I'm particularly pleased that you highlight the recent concentration of effort on speed reduction - something that few people on here believe is actually that beneficial in the majority of accidents. I certainly feel that the authorities have largely been "barking up the wrong tree" for the last 10 years in this respect.

Yes there is a good range of safety features available in modern cars, and the industry is always looking at new safety technologies. There are a few technologies that are "almost there" on mainstream cars, which could have helped at least SOME of the travellers in the M5 crash, but I think we need to wait for more information to be able to see what it could have done in this particular situation (which might turn out to be one of those "perfect storm" situations that is highly unlikely to occur again). I'm surprised you didn't mention the very recent vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems that are being developed where vehicles in the same vicinity can communicate with each other, so, for exmaple, if a number of vehicles are all heading the same way (as on a motorway) and one vehicle comes to a sudden halt, then it's airbag deploys, it sends a signal to following vehicles that it has just crashed. That sort of thing might have helped (but only, as you say in your article, subject to the drivers being far enough apart to let such a system work).


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2011 01:30 
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:welcome: Rosie

Always delighted to talk with the media in relation to all road safety issues. :)

An interesting article. I recently linked another forum topic (here) where "a car with spatial awareness and the ability to navigate and drive itself".

rosieniven wrote:
I am a journalist covering the M5 crash for for Channel 4 News. I have just finished a piece looking at how technology can help reduce fatalities on Britain's motorways. It looks at what car manufacturers are doing and also how highway engineers are seeking to make motorways safer.
http://www.channel4.com/news/how-engine ... ving-safer
You can also find links to other coverage of the crash from the article.
Rosie
An interesting article.
You may like to look at ;
http://www.safespeed/org.uk/speed.html
http://www.safespeed/org.uk/s.p.e.e.d.html
http://www.safespeed/org.uk/killspeed.html
http://www.safespeed/org.uk/speeding.html

I'll comment further on the article in a while.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2011 01:46 
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I take it that you do not object to my quoting your article here for discussion ?
rosieniven wrote:
http://www.channel4.com/news/how-engineers-and-car-makers-are-making-driving-safer
Monday 07 November 2011

As investigations continue into the cause of the crash on the M5 which killed seven people, Channel 4 News looks at how our motorways could be made safer.
The M5 pile-up follows years where there have been relatively few casualties on Britain's motorways.

Motorways are often described as the safest roads in the UK, but they are not without their risks.

With 70mph speed limits and multiple lanes, they leave little margin for error.

Efforts to limit the number of deaths on the roads has so far focused on reducing speed, but the AA's Edmund King has told Channel 4 News tailgating is a bigger motorway risk than speeding.

Both traffic engineers and car manufacturers have stepped up efforts to make driving safer through better road and vehicle design.
Car braking has been improved in recent years with the introduction of non-locking brakes.
There is also a mechanism to control the speed of lorries with built-in controls that limit their speed to 63mph.
But more sophisticated measures are becoming widespread in motoring.

Paul Watters, the AA's head of roads policy, said technology like adaptive cruise control, which automatically brakes your car when the one in front brakes, are among some of the measures introduced to prevent tailgating.
But he warns that older vehicles and lorries with different stopping speeds could reduce the effectiveness of these mechanisms in practice.
Flow breakdown can occur when a car suddenly brakes and the cars following respond creating a ripple effect.
The delay is multiplied throughout the queue meaning that it will take longer for the motorist at the back to be on the move again compared with the person who first braked.

Car modifications
Adaptive cruise control: ACC uses a radar sensor to check for moving objects ahead in the same traffic lane. It maintain a set constant vehicle speed but if a preceding slower vehicle is detected, ACC will reduce the engine power and - if necessary - apply brakes to maintain a set safe following distance.

Lane departure warning: monitors a vehicle’s position in the lane and alerts drivers when they leave the lane without signalling. Some systems steer the vehicle back in between the lines.

Automatic emergency braking: Detects a potential crash ahead and alerts the driver. If no action is taken, the system warns the driver again, prepares for a crash and applies the brakes to mitigate or avoid the collision.

The location of the M5 pile-up
Road management measures to reduce flow breakdown include the active traffic management system on the M42 east of Birmingham.

More common is the older MIDAS signalling system which operates on more than 1,000km of road across the UK.

MIDAS signalling is in operation on the M5 in Somerset at a number of sites including between junctions 26 and 25 on the northbound carraigeway - approximately half a mile ahead of where the incident took place.

A spokesperson for the Highways Agency told Channel 4 News that the signals were triggered by queuing traffic folliwing the collision but would not have been triggered by the collision itself.
On the stretch of the M5 where the accident happened there have only been two previous fatalities over the past five years - this happened over a mile away on the opposite carraigeway.
Mr Watters said that to be effective, traffic management measures must be targeted at accident blackspots. He added that drivers can lose their trust in traffic management measures when they are triggered erroneously, or cancelled too late.
Mr Watters added that these measures were no substitution for safe driving and the normal rules of good observation and forward planning still apply.
"The person in control is the person with their hands on the wheel and their foot on the accelerator," he said.

Engineering measures
Active traffic management: sensors in the road detect the amount of traffic there is. If they detect congestion, the built-in system automatically calculates the best speed to keep the traffic flowing, which will be enforced using digital enforcement technology.

MS4 'pictogram' signs: these are new-style matrix road signs that display picture and text messages. It is thought that they will be more easily and quickly understood by drivers, allowing more time to react, reducing the likelihood of further accidents.

Motorway incident detection and automatic signalling (MIDAS): this automatic queue protection is currently in operation on 1,015 kilometres of motorway in England. It uses induction loops to detect slow moving, queuing or stationary traffic and sets upstream signs automatically to show to drivers 40mph and 60mph advisory speed limits.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2011 09:24 
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I'm just wondering what an ACC radar does with smoke, I suspect it would have to be ridiculously dense or full of metallic particles to have an adverse effect.
[edit to add... we've tested these radars in some ridiculously hostile environments they're not really designed for with very little problem, so smoke shouldnt be an issue]

Also
Quote:
With 70mph speed limits and multiple lanes, they leave little margin for error.


Do you we really think this is the case, as I observed on the other thread in reality given how common 80mph trains of cars with fractions of a second gap are, the (low) frequency of serious multiple shunts might imply that even this behaviour maintains quite a large margin for error.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2011 15:07 
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My comments to the article ... :)
rosieniven wrote:
Motorways are often described as the safest roads in the UK, but they are not without their risks. With 70mph speed limits and multiple lanes, they leave little margin for error.
When travelling on a motorway the lanes are much wider to allow for small motoring mistakes and give space to correct them which is one reason why they are safer so I cannot agree that there is little room for error. When travelling at 70mph with good space, 2 sec gap as a minimum, observation, anticipation, awareness, good attitude, consideration and courtesy there is no reason at all why any incident or even event (not even a near miss) should occur. Although this will apply to other roads, it is only Motorways that have the widest, smoothest and the most gentle bends of all our road network. Plus all the traffic flows in the same direction, thus reduction any chance of 'conflict'.
rosieniven wrote:
Efforts to limit the number of deaths on the roads has so far focused on reducing speed,
... and therein lies the exact problem. It is precisely this very reason that has made out roads drop from being the very safest in the World after being do so many decades, that we are (when I last checked) 15th in the World standing. Please see http://www.safespeed.org.uk/effects.html and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/roa ... s-now.html

rosieniven wrote:
but the AA's Edmund King has told Channel 4 News tailgating is a bigger motorway risk than speeding.
tailgating is one issue but there are others, like spatial awareness and good observation, good attitude, courtesy, consideration and especially anticipation which covers (all) vehicle positioning. Advice and guidance on how to drive better and safely is tragically lacking. Considering that it has never been easier to communicate we have a stark loss of toward the motoring public in the last 18years !

rosieniven wrote:
Both traffic engineers and car manufacturers have stepped up efforts to make driving safer through better road and vehicle design.
ABS braking systems will help many motorists to control their car in certain types of events but not all and can make some situations worse. The rider or driver should learn more about every aspect so that they have a whole tool-box full of knowledge skills and abilities.

rosieniven wrote:
There is also a mechanism to control the speed of lorries with built-in controls that limit their speed to 63mph.
The speed differential might have been a contributing factor in this accident (specualtion) but whenever two vehicles try to occupy the same stretch of tarmac and one is travelling at a greater speed difference then the resulting accident is greater than if they had both been travelling at a similar speed in the first place. However the tonnage of a lorry that is trying to stop has a far greater mass than the much smaller car and once stopped is a big, very hard, and very large static object.

rosieniven wrote:
Paul Watters, the AA's head of roads policy, said technology like adaptive cruise control, which automatically brakes your car when the one in front brakes, are among some of the measures introduced to prevent tailgating.
But he warns that older vehicles and lorries with different stopping speeds could reduce the effectiveness of these mechanisms in practice.
Flow breakdown can occur when a car suddenly brakes and the cars following respond creating a ripple effect.
The delay is multiplied throughout the queue meaning that it will take longer for the motorist at the back to be on the move again compared with the person who first braked.
The ripple effect is worse when motorists travel too close. By leaving suitable gaps and applying all good driver/rider techniques the situation is managed and dealt with appropriately and with far less 'effect' on other traffic and with minimal or now alteration to the traffic flow, unless the traffic is all coming to a complete stop.
rosieniven wrote:
Car modifications
Adaptive cruise control: ACC uses a radar sensor to check for moving objects ahead in the same traffic lane. It maintain a set constant vehicle speed but if a preceding slower vehicle is detected, ACC will reduce the engine power and - if necessary - apply brakes to maintain a set safe following distance.
There is nothing better than a motorists who can judge hazards and anticipate traffic well. No system will better human input. However untrained and unaware humans who might end up relying on these systems may do so too much and when they fail have little or no idea on what they can 'do' leaving them worse off not better. There is a place for technology as an aid but never to take over or replace the driver/rider.
rosieniven wrote:
Lane departure warning: monitors a vehicle’s position in the lane and alerts drivers when they leave the lane without signalling. Some systems steer the vehicle back in between the lines.
If there is nothing to signal too then who are you 'informing'? To reduce driving/riding to a pre-conditioned set of circumstances is potentially highly dangerous.
rosieniven wrote:
Automatic emergency braking: Detects a potential crash ahead and alerts the driver. If no action is taken, the system warns the driver again, prepares for a crash and applies the brakes to mitigate or avoid the collision.
Other forums have (and regularly) debate/d these types of systems and all the issues surrounding them.
rosieniven wrote:
The location of the M5 pile-up
Road management measures to reduce flow breakdown include the active traffic management system on the M42 east of Birmingham.[/quote]The controls in place on the M42 seem particularly bad and most drivers have learn to thoroughly ignore the apparent 'warnings'. It is a completely failed system and many drivers/riders only obey with reluctance and with a moral need to obey the Law. they need a complete and very urgent overhaul, and removed whilst this is underway.
rosieniven wrote:
More common is the older MIDAS signalling system which operates on more than 1,000km of road across the UK.
MIDAS signalling is in operation on the M5 in Somerset at a number of sites including between junctions 26 and 25 on the northbound carraigeway - approximately half a mile ahead of where the incident took place.
A spokesperson for the Highways Agency told Channel 4 News that the signals were triggered by queuing traffic folliwing the collision but would not have been triggered by the collision itself.
On the stretch of the M5 where the accident happened there have only been two previous fatalities over the past five years - this happened over a mile away on the opposite carraigeway.
So it was mostly useless, then and cost how much ? And how much disruption and ecoomic cost whilst it all was installed ? An utter waste of precious resources. I agree that warning signs are good and worthy of informing drivers of potential problems up ahead that id very helpful, but it relies on sensors than human input that could readily react to the changing environment and provide better more appropriate updates and information.
rosieniven wrote:
Mr Watters said that to be effective, traffic management measures must be targeted at accident blackspots. He added that drivers can lose their trust in traffic management measures when they are triggered erroneously, or cancelled too late.
No proper engineering and scientific solutions must be applied to black spots so that they are resolved for good! To only provide an information service or flow management will never resolved or address the real world problems. He should be ashamed.
rosieniven wrote:
Mr Watters added that these measures were no substitution for safe driving and the normal rules of good observation and forward planning still apply.
"The person in control is the person with their hands on the wheel and their foot on the accelerator," he said.
Since he is going to rely on driver / rider skills and never address the real problems he had better hope that those skills abilities and knowledge of those drivers and riders improve as how else will accidents ever be prevented ?
rosieniven wrote:
Engineering measures
Active traffic management: sensors in the road detect the amount of traffic there is. If they detect congestion, the built-in system automatically calculates the best speed to keep the traffic flowing, which will be enforced using digital enforcement technology.
This is a management and information measure, not really an engineering one IMHO. All automated systems in the road environment cannot allow for conditions and unless you do so much of the information becomes useless and potentially pointless. Do we really need it ? How much good can it possibly do ? If a rider/driver is so unaware of congestion as it builds or as the traffic flow reduces or slows, then what are they doing on the road in the first place ? However I do agree that a warning of genuinely stopped or slowed traffic ahead might be useful but they don't tell you that, you are just told what to do or even told after the queue is formed that there is one which just makes the whole system pointless. I travel the motorways a lot and it has been a rare exception indeed that when going at 50mph (already aware of a potential problem) that a sign might state 'queue'!
You have no info as to how this criteria is construction so little info on where, how long or even for what time period this has been over ? So it really seems totally pointless. It does have the danger however that if the sign is blank there are now some riders/drivers who believe that all is clear ahead however when in fact it is all slowing. The systems are currently not fit for purpose, and need to be rethought. If they really want to invest in them, then make them function properly and promote how they work and under what circumstances etc. I would be very happy to help them make them worth while ! :) (Seriously).
rosieniven wrote:
MS4 'pictogram' signs: these are new-style matrix road signs that display picture and text messages. It is thought that they will be more easily and quickly understood by drivers, allowing more time to react, reducing the likelihood of further accidents.
Most are confused by them as there is little promotion of what they mean and again how soon they react to what and when etc .... I do think that the concept is a worthy one, as driver /rider information is good, but it needs to (already) be improved.
Whether the excessive cost has been worth it is very very questionable but since it is now there - then lets at least try and make it 'good'.
rosieniven wrote:
Motorway incident detection and automatic signalling (MIDAS): this automatic queue protection is currently in operation on 1,015 kilometres of motorway in England. It uses induction loops to detect slow moving, queuing or stationary traffic and sets upstream signs automatically to show to drivers 40mph and 60mph advisory speed limits.
And therein lies the problem especially when associated with speed cameras. The system becomes un-believable as it becomes defunct info or requires a slower speed as you approach and with no knowledge on the 'grace' period encourages desperate braking when the motorists tries to preserve their licence than worry about preventing damage to people and property. Awful. Again I agree that is MUST be done correctly and never with speed camera enforcement. Safety (inc motorist responsibility) must come first.
Ref :MIDAS

We might find of course that the initial vehicle involved that might have simply braked a bit for smoke/fog, etc. had it's suspension / tyres fail (and so then lost control), from going over too many speed humps !

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