This programme contributes to three of the Department's generic research themes: Safety, Congestion and Environment. Vehicle technology research supports delivery of the PSA road casualty reduction targets by identifying and enabling desirable policy development in the area of vehicle design and construction. The research seeks to identify and gain an engineering understanding of advances in technology that have the potential to address key issues affecting accident causation and effect.
Research is undertaken with the following aims:
- (1) to identify those areas of vehicle design that may reduce the propensity for accident involvement and those that are significant with respect to casualty rates and severity,
- (2) to strengthen the knowledge and evidence base upon which policy decisions can be taken,
- (3) to ensure that regulatory standards keep pace with technological development, and
- (4) to identify policy options that minimise the burden on industry whilst delivering improved safety standards.
The transport policy context and organisation are indicated by the programme's nine sub-themes:
- Primary Safety: The theme draws together the vehicle engineering aspects which 'as far as possible reduce the risk of an accident occurring'. The theme has three sub-categories; vehicle braking and stability, vision/conspicuity, and electronics. In this theme projects support the Department's commitment to improve vehicle braking, the user understanding of the technology and its application. Supporting the Department's general aim to improve consumer information, a longer term project is investigating the potential to rank vehicles according to their primary safety performance, and develop a dissemination strategy. This work follows the success of the EuroNCAP scheme for ranking cars according to their secondary safety performance. The Department is also committed to develop standards for tyre grip following the introduction of maximum noise limits. This work will undertaken collaboratively at international level and will include the Global Technical Regulation group for tyres. Under the electronics sub-theme is a long-term project to consider the use of Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) to reduce accidents and casualties. This project builds upon commitments in the Road Safety Strategy and the Speed policy review and is developing a series of user trials to understand better the behavioural aspects of drivers using this technology.
- Secondary Safety: Car secondary safety offers the greatest potential for reducing the number and severity of casualties from accidents (especially deaths and serious injuries). Secondary safety can be defined 'as all structural and design features that reduce the consequences of accidents as far as possible'. The theme is sub-divided into Biomechanics, Structural Crashworthiness, and Restraint/Safety systems. The theme addresses specific topics such as the crashworthiness of cars, air bags, seat belts & fixings, seating, children safety seats and installation, interior fittings, the protection of pedestrians involved in accidents, motorcycle helmet construction. It also covers the departmental involvement in the EuroNCAP safety tests. This research is providing essential evidence to underpin policy across these areas and is informing negotiations at both national and international levels. Due to the international dimension, however, progress depends upon many factors.
- Heavy Vehic