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Fifty years ago, a young engineer from Sweden created a safety aid that has been credited with saving more than one million lives. His invention: the three-point seatbelt.
Since then, automotive safety has evolved from “passive" tech that protects you in a crash, to innovations such as hazard warnings that actively help you avoid a crash in the first place.
But now the stage has been set for the next evolution in road safety. And it could be the most pivotal yet. It's called Data for Road Safety, an initiative started by the European Commission that aims to make the roads safer for millions of road users.
The data from cars that talk to each other and the road network will soon be made available for millions of Europeans.
The objective is to pool all the safety information that's collected by cars, vehicle manufacturers and authorities, and make this available to service providers as input for the creation of safety information to all road users across Europe. Whether that's a broken-down car up ahead, a slippery road, or reduced visibility.
“This is about to be a big thing for every road user in Europe, starting today," said Jens Landvogt, senior principal business solution architect (automotive), at HERE Technologies. “The data is transferred from the vehicle to the OEM back end system. And from there it becomes accessible to third parties.
“We already have millions of connected vehicles contributing data," adds Jens. “The number of vehicles that are technically capable of delivering data is growing. So old vehicles are replaced by new ones, and, with every new car they sell, there is more data becoming available. There are high hopes that we would see significant growth this year when it comes to the number of connected vehicles."
Backed by the European Commission, Data for Road Safety is meant to create a “Safety-Related Traffic Information (SRTI) ecosystem” that benefits all drivers.
Many vehicles are already equipped to collect and share data, and this initiative means this data will be computed into valuable Safety-Related Traffic Information (SRTI) and delivered to impacted drivers at no additional cost. It's a bit like a guardian angel, looking out for you and keeping you out of harm's way.
“So if you're an end consumer, it could be that there is an accident up ahead, and you will be warned because another car has already come across it," adds Jens. “And the most obvious thing is to have some kind of alert popping up on the dashboard of your car."
Through smart data exchange, drivers are informed about exceptional weather conditions such as temporary slippery roads.
But it's not just owners of the very latest, new cars that could have access to this technology. “If you have a navigation app running on your mobile phone, adding the information that there is a safety-critical incident ahead of you is something that can be implemented in all kinds of app-based services," explains Jens.
Significantly, after years of collaboration among the partners, the Data for Road Safety program recently moved from proof of concept to long-term deployment, bringing this collective safety approach one step closer to reality. It means that automotive manufacturers and suppliers, road traffic authorities, EU member states, and location technology providers such as HERE have agreed to share safety data as part of an open SRTI ecosystem. This is a reciprocity model: safety data is offered to carmakers and location providers in return for safety services.
“The Data for Road Safety ecosystem is a public-private partnership that delivers enriched data to improve road safety in a very tangible way, so it is a win-win situation for society as a whole," said Joost Vantomme, the first chairman of the new SRTI ecosystem.
The ecosystem partners already include automakers such as BMW AG, Ford Motor Company, Mercedes-Benz AG and Volvo Cars, road traffic authorities, member states and location technology providers, all committed to the long-term exchange of data for safer roads.
“HERE has long supported the idea that data sharing and open exchange is crucial for the enhancement of road safety," added Giovanni Lanfranchi, CTO, and SVP Development, HERE Technologies. “Through partnering with industry leaders and public sector on the Data for Road Safety initiative and by providing our partners with seamless data exchange via the HERE location platform, we hope to be able to play a significant role in making European roads safer for all."