Death by­hu­mane er­ror

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Technology Update -

PEO­PLE kill other peo­ple on the road. Re­search around the world shows that the vast ma­jor­ity of car crashes — not ac­ci­dents — are caused by driver er­ror.

It can be any­thing from a mo­ment of inat­ten­tion to fa­tigue, in­ap­pro­pri­ate speed, poor driv­ing skills or even a mis-read on what an­other driver is do­ing.

‘‘Eighty per­cent or more of ac­ci­dents are caused by driver er­ror. Hu­man be­ings make mis­takes,’’ says Dr Jo­erg Breuer, head of ac­tive safety de­vel­op­ment work at Mercedes-Benz. He says the goal for car com­pa­nies is to pro­vide early warn­ings, help­ful tech­nol­ogy and driver-as­sist sys­tems to min­imise the con­se­quences of mis­takes on the road.

‘‘We are try­ing to as­sist the driver. We can some­times eval­u­ate a sit­u­a­tion faster than the peo­ple in­volved,’’ he says.

He dis­putes the need for cars that drive au­to­mat­i­cally, but says tech­nol­ogy is al­ready do­ing a great job.

ABS brak­ing al­lows peo­ple to steer away from a po­ten­tial crash, in­stead of slid­ing

into an im­pact with all four wheels locked solid, while ESP sta­bil­ity con­trol helps straighten cars that are slid­ing out of con­trol.

‘‘The mi­nor­ity of peo­ple are now killed in­side the car,’’ he says.

He also wor­ries that peo­ple think that cars can do ev­ery­thing for them, de­fy­ing the laws of physics, and that peo­ple have an un­re­al­is­tic idea of how things work.

‘‘Like the airbag. Peo­ple think it is like a soft pil­low, but it’s like be­ing hit in the head with a soc­cer ball,’’ he says.

Look, no hands: (above) An au­to­mated driv­ing sys­tem in a Mercedes-Benz car col­lects data on ve­hi­cle re­sponses in sit­u­a­tions where it is too dan­ger­ous to use a hu­man driver.

Crash site: (right) The Mercedes-Benz sim­u­la­tor cost $27 mil­lion.

Beware: Mercedes-Benz en­vi­sions cars warn­ing driv­ers of haz­ards such as traf­fic jams around a bend or black ice on the road.

Dan­ger lurks: (left) The blind spot as­sist sys­tem ac­ti­vates a light in the rel­e­vant side mir­ror when it de­tects an­other ve­hi­cle.

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