Bosses at Robert Bosch, the component group that pioneered super-safe ABS braking systems, want to drive home the benefits of further developments in brake technology in a series of special events for fleet executives.
Due to start early next year, the sessions will begin with classroom discussions and culminate in dramatic driving activities staged away from public highways that will demonstrate how the latest electronic stability programme (ESP) gadgetry operates to reduce the risk of accidents.
Invented by Bosch and launched in 1995, ESP incorporates ABS and traction control.
It selectively applies braking to individual wheels to maintain stability. Every second car sold in Germany has it fitted as standard and production has already exceeded 10 million units.
Retailing groups will be targeted in the German company's major bid to persuade more fleet operators to bring ESP into the reckoning when decisions are being made about the specification and safety levels of new vehicles.
Bosch chassis systems vice- president Dr Walter Schirm said: 'The equation is really very simple. The bottom line of the message we want to deliver is that fewer accidents means lower costs for fleets.
'Once we can get the industry to appreciate that widespread fitment of ESP can affect reduced overheads by cutting insurance premiums, the benefit of this equipment will become clear. On that basis alone, it should sell itself.'
Speaking at a Motor Industry Research Association event, Schirm told Fleet News that the results of latest research in Germany and Japan had proved that ESP had the potential to save lives in all driving situations by being able to control the brakes, engine and even the transmission if sensors detect a car is going into a sudden swerve.
Schirm added: 'We are delighted that car manufacturers have agreed that every new model produced in Western Europe will have ABS fitted as standard from July next year. But now we are turning our attention toward ESP, which builds on anti-locking technology to bring further safety benefits.
'Our figures show that ESP is specified as original equipment on only 12% of new models in the UK and that is a significant figure, given that this is a 2.5-million annual market. And because the fleet sector accounts for such a high proportion of new registrations, we consider this to be a vital target area.'
Study findings on 1.5 million crashes just released by Mercedes-Benz, which made ESP standard on all models in 2000, suggest the equipment is responsible for a 30% cut in accidents resulting from loss of driver control.
Schirm said: 'In Japan, Toyota has examined one million crashes and established that ESP has reduced driving accidents resulting in moderate or severe vehicle damage by up to 50% and resulted in 35% fewer casualties. The company describes the equipment as being particularly effective in preventing accidents caused by driver error.'
Bosch UK original equipment division managing director Dr Manfred Muller added: 'Department for Transport statistics show that there were 302,605 casualties on British roads last year, with a total of 3,431 people killed and 35,976 seriously injured.
'Contrary to popular belief, speed is not the greatest cause of accidents because lack of attention – from being tired, using a mobile phone, drink or drugs – is the biggest single factor behind 28% of crashes.
'If we were to apply the German and Japanese statistics to the UK figures, ESP would have the potential to save 500 lives and prevent 2,000 serious injuries. The value of ESP technology cannot be ignored, and if we are in any way serious about active road safety, I believe we should all be striving to promote fitment way beyond the 12% UK level.'
After filing a patent for anti-lock braking in 1936, Bosch began supplying ABS systems in 1978 and production from seven factories worldwide has now topped 100 million units.
Boffins produce one bright idea every working hour
RESEARCH and development operations soaks up a €2.5 billion budget at Bosch.
The combined brainpower of more than 20,000 scientists, engineers and technical staff around the globe produces an average of one bright idea every working hour, the firm claims.
As a result, officials of the Stuttgart-based company – the world's second biggest car component supplier – filed more than 2,600 patent applications last year to cover advances in automotive technology.
The stream of ideas means Bosch is now ready to use its ESP gadgetry to perform other tasks to make driving safer and more convenient.
Among the features lined up for production are Electronic Brake Prefill, which reduces stopping distances by sensing that the driver needs emergency braking; Brake Disc Wiping, which uses pads to touch brake discs briefly on a regular basis in heavy rain to keep them dry and Soft Stop, which prevents cars jerking to a halt by reducing braking pressure shortly before they reach standstill.
Other gadgetry on the way includes Hill Hold, which prevents unintentional rolling back during hill starts.
But the most controversial new-age equipment, likely to be offered on premium cars in 2006, promises to herald the era of the automatic driver. Called Stop&Go, it is linked with adaptive cruise control and works via sensors to stop a car in traffic and then move it forward again when conditions allow – without the driver needing to do anything.
Chassis systems vice-president Dr Walter Schirm said: 'We think Stop&Go will take the stress out of driving, especially in tailback situations. It will be based on a conventional braking system but will perform all additional functions by electro-hydraulic means.'
BOSCH has won Britain's most prestigious road safety award.
British Standards Institute head of transport John Lennox presented the Prince Michael of Kent international road safety award to Bosch original equipment division managing director Dr Manfred Muller at a ceremony at the Motor Industry Research Association headquarters recently.
He said: 'Robert Bosch illustrates just how the component industry is able to make a significant contribution in the area of technical innovation.'