The tech that saves you from reck­less driv­ers

CityPress - - News - DUMISANE LUBISI voices@city­press.co.za TALK TO US Do you think this tech­nol­ogy can help South Africans change their driv­ing habits? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word ROADS and tell us what you think. Include your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

In the mo­tor­ing world, each new tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment in­tro­duced over the decades has seen cars im­prove in terms of driver safety and en­joy­ment.

But fa­tal col­li­sions on our roads – as South Africa again experienced over the past Easter week­end – re­main a cause for con­cern for man­u­fac­tur­ers.

The min­istry of trans­port on Fri­day said the num­ber of road fa­tal­i­ties went up by 51% th­ese Easter hol­i­days, com­pared with the same time last year. In a state­ment, Trans­port Min­is­ter Joe Maswan­ganyi said: “Many peo­ple who died on our roads were vic­tims of hit-and-run in­ci­dents – pedes­tri­ans jay­walk­ing or mo­torists who were [speed­ing].”

Driver be­hav­iour con­trib­utes to most col­li­sions. In­creas­ing the vis­i­bil­ity of traf­fic of­fi­cers dur­ing the hol­i­days and im­prov­ing driver test­ing are not achiev­ing the de­sired goals of hav­ing bet­ter driv­ers on the roads.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers are con­stantly push­ing the lim­its of tech­nol­ogy to make cars bet­ter and safer.

Not too long ago, power steer­ing was only avail­able in top-of-the-range cars, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for driv­ers of bakkies and trucks to turn.

To­day, thanks to this tech­nol­ogy be­com­ing more stan­dard and af­ford­able, it is ubiq­ui­tous in the mar­ket.

In the quest to re­duce ac­ci­dents, man­u­fac­tur­ers are look­ing be­yond hu­man frailty to en­sure that the roads are free from crashes. For ex­am­ple, Ja­panese car man­u­fac­turer Nis­san’s In­tel­li­gent Mo­bil­ity project in­tro­duced ProPilot tech­nol­ogy (see graphic) last Au­gust, which is aimed at im­prov­ing driver be­hav­iour.

Kazuhiro Doi, al­liance global di­rec­tor at the Nis­san Re­search Cen­tre, said the com­pany con­tin­ues to pro­duce tech­nol­ogy to provide “more fun and con­ve­nience for the driver. In­tel­li­gent Mo­bil­ity is the core value from Nis­san to the driver.”

The ben­e­fits of the tech­nol­ogy tested in its Nis­san Ser­ena (a fam­ily car not avail­able in South Africa) could be the an­swer for the lo­cal mar­ket, where reck­less driv­ing causes count­less deaths each year.

The first phase of the Nis­san ProPilot tech­nol­ogy has been de­signed for sin­gle lanes on the high­way, but more de­vel­op­ments are en­vis­aged for the fu­ture.

Dur­ing a re­cent test of the tech­nol­ogy on the streets of Yoko­hama, Ja­pan, the driver used the ProPilot pro­gramme to set the ve­hi­cle’s speed and the dis­tance be­tween the pi­lot car and the one in front of it and the tech­nol­ogy kicked in.

Un­like ex­ist­ing cruise con­trol tech­nol­ogy, ProPilot en­sures that the car swerves in the right direction when the road curves and straight­ens again with­out the driver turn­ing the steer­ing wheel. How­ever, you have to keep your hands on the steer­ing wheel all the time.

“The tech­nol­ogy is not de­signed to replace the driver, the driver is still in con­trol of the car,” Doi said.

Daniele Schillaci, head of mar­ket­ing and sales at Nis­san, said the tech­nol­ogy has been on the mar­ket for less than a year and “given its suc­cess, we are go­ing to re­lease it in the global mar­ket”. In Europe, the tech­nol­ogy will be in­tro­duced in the Qashqai – a model also sold in South Africa.

Asked whether there were plans for South Africa, Schillaci said it was some­thing the com­pany was con­sid­er­ing, but he couldn’t say ex­actly when the tech­nol­ogy would be avail­able lo­cally.

He said sur­veys had shown that driv­ers loved the tech­nol­ogy and that one day there could be ve­hi­cles on the roads that were fully au­tonomous.

“Tech­ni­cally, one day we might see fully au­tonomous [cars], but when, time will de­ter­mine,” he said.

The com­pany plans to launch mul­ti­ple-lanechang­ing tech­nol­ogy as the sec­ond phase of the ProPilot next year. This will en­sure that, once en­gaged, the car can change lanes on a high­way to over­take slow-mov­ing ve­hi­cles with­out re­quir­ing it to be re­set. By 2020, the city-driv­ing phase will be launched. If brought to South Africa, the tech­nol­ogy could as­sist in re­duc­ing the car­nage on our roads, but that will re­quire reg­u­la­tory changes to laws gov­ern­ing our roads.

That said, judg­ing by the con­tin­u­ous loss of life on our roads due to poor driver be­hav­iour, it might be ex­actly what the coun­try needs.

Lubisi was in Ja­pan at­tend­ing the Nis­san In­tel­li­gent Mo­bil­ity launch, cour­tesy of the man­u­fac­turer

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