Finance departments are preventing the introduction of mandatory fleet policies for automatic emergency braking (AEB) safety technology, according to Thatcham Research.
There is currently only a 1% take-up of AEB as an option among all UK car sales, according to Thatcham’s data, but the organisation wants fleets to adopt a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating policy.
Andrew Miller, Thatcham chief technical officer, said: “Those holding the purse strings in finance and HR don’t understand the technology, nor do they fully appreciate the societal and monetary benefits.
“Actively choosing safety does not bring any immediately obvious tax relief for the fleet buyer so there needs to be some very powerful arguments as to why choosing AEB should be high on the agenda.”
Manufacturers need to have AEB available as an option on their vehicles to stand a realistic chance of earning a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
The safety testing body recently announced it is introducing a new test that will check how well vehicles autonomously detect and prevent collisions with pedestrians. This will play a part in future vehicles gaining five stars.
Thatcham estimates that mandatory AEB could save up to 1,200 lives and more than 130,000 casualties in the UK over the next 10 years, while a mandatory regulation could accelerate this further.
Euro NCAP says AEB can reduce real-world, rear-end crashes for vehicles fitted with low speed AEB by 38% compared to a sample of equivalent vehicles with no AEB.
Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, said: “A faster penetration of these technologies into new cars will make it more realistic for the European Union to reach its target to cut road deaths by 50% by 2020.
“If all cars were fitted with AEB systems, many crashes could be mitigated or avoided altogether on European roads.”
Both Thatcham and the BVRLA are urging the Department for Transport and Highways England to make AEB mandatory in the UK. It was also featured in the 2014 Fleet Industry Manifesto, created by Fleet News, ACFO and BVRLA.
Roads minister Andrew Jones told Fleet News he supports the idea for manufacturers to fit AEB as standard.
He said: “Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world, but every death is a tragedy and I would welcome the introduction of new technology that would make our roads even safer.
“If car manufacturers want to secure the highest consumer safety they should be fitting AEB as standard from 2016.”
Meanwhile, John Pryor, ACFO chairman, said any safety technology that can help protect drivers has to be supported.
So, if all the industry driving forces agree for mandatory AEB in the UK, why hasn’t it happened yet?
Manufacturers fitting AEB as standard would bypass the problem for fleet departments unwilling to fork out for the technology as an option.
Miller said: “Regulation needs to be driven at a European level and therefore needs to be proposed by a member government – and then they all have to agree.
“So it’s a long, slow process and the Government tends to think that proliferation of AEB will happen anyway, being driven by the likes of Euro NCAP.”
Additionally, with the focus now on autonomous vehicles and how to deal with them, AEB is less of a priority.
More than 40% of new cars are now on sale with some level of AEB availability (it was 23% when Thatcham started its campaign for mandatory adoption in 2014) although only 17% of that is offered as standard fit.
The remainder is offered as an optional extra, which on average (often bundled in with a wider safety pack) can cost around £1,300, but can be as low as £180 for a simple low speed ‘city’ system.
While AEB on new cars is increasingly offered, the numbers of cars with AEB actually on UK roads today is still less than 2% the of overall car parc. Thatcham argues that fleets adopting a mandatory AEB policy will tick boxes for duty of care. They will also minimise downtime of their vehicles and penalty payments for dings and scrapes to vehicles that go back to the leasing company.
The organisation says AEB can reduce insurance claims by 25% and that vehicles fitted with it can have an insurance rating improvement of up to five groups, which can translate into savings of 10% in individual insurance premiums.
Andy Price, Zurich risk engineering Europe practice leader for motor fleet in EMEA, said: “Currently there are very few fleets mandating the use of AEB, but as the benefits become more widely known, and more vehicles are fitted with this technology as standard, then we hope to see a wider adoption of this policy. Given the proven safety benefits, we hope to see this technology mandated in European legislation, as it already is with HGVs.”
Price said Zurich is looking at the financial implications fitment of AEB can have on a fleet’s total cost of risk, not just insurance premiums.
He said: “If collision and claim rates come down through the adoption of any effective risk management initiative, including the adoption of AEB, then this will be reflected in an organisation’s claims experience and will be reflected in the insurance premium paid.”
Vehicle write-offs are predicted to fall by around 18% over the next 10 years thanks largely to technologies like AEB.
Thatcham said a review of third party injury claims on the latest Golf (with standard fit AEB) were shown to be 45% lower than an equivalent ‘small family car control group’ on a sample of around 700 claims.
What is AEB?
Several manufacturers have developed technologies which can help the driver to avoid accidents or at least reduce their severity.
AEB systems help to avoid accidents by identifying critical situations early and warning the driver; and, secondly, they reduce the severity of crashes which cannot be avoided by lowering the speed of collision and, in some cases, by preparing the vehicle and restraint systems for impact.
Most AEB systems use radar, stereo camera and/or LIDAR-based technology to identify potential collision partners ahead of the car. This information is combined with what the car knows of its own travel speed and trajectory to determine whether or not a critical situation is developing.
If a potential collision is detected, AEB systems generally (though not exclusively) first try to avoid the impact by warning the driver that action is needed. If no action is taken and a collision is still expected, the system will then apply the brakes.
Some systems apply full braking force, others an elevated level. Either way, the intention is to reduce the speed with which the collision takes place. Some systems deactivate as soon as they detect avoidance action being taken by the driver. AEB will have to be a standard fit on autonomous vehicles of the future.