Coffee Time Challenge
Stopping the crash
Of the 2.7 million road accidents that result in insurance claims every year in the UK, around 26% or 700,000 are rear end collisions. How can they be avoided?
Everybody knows how rear-end collisions occur: vehicles driving too close behind each other, the vehicle in front stopping suddenly, whereupon the driver of the vehicle behind, lulled into a false sense of security in steadily moving traffic fails to react in time. Most of the accidents are at fairly low speed and result in minor damage, although lawyers now do very good business with obtaining compensation for whiplash injuries.
At speed, they such accidents can be disastrous, especially if the following vehicle is an articulated heavy goods vehicle which then jacknifes, gathering up other vehicles as it does so, resulting in multiple accidents, multiple injuries and deaths. Eye level brake lights do much to warn following drivers that the vehicle they are following has started to slow down, but can only reduce the impact if the following vehicle is too close, which in heavy traffic, it usually is.
Our challenge this month, therefore, is to come up with some simple system to reduce the colossal number of rear end collision accidents. Years ago, we road tested a car equipped with a radar system under the front bumper that applied the brakes when we got too close to the car in front. The prototype system, we were told, cost more than the car – an upmarket Jaguar, and there were doubts then, and still are, whether a system that automatically applies the brakes is entirely safe.
In addition, during the test, the car in front turned, and the radar lost contact with it, producing an audible warning that nearly frightened the life out of us and we had to slam on the brakes manually. What is needed is something more gentle, that advises a driver that they are getting too close, without alarming them or distracting them from all the other things they should be paying attention to, but is just sufficient to ensure that they keep to a safe distance.
Since not everybody will initially be equipped, there should be elements that both discourage a following car from tail gating, while advising the driver of the equipped car that they should not get too close a vehicle they may be following. Many solutions that have been put forward to this problem, but we have to say we like the system proposed by an automotive designer in the Middle East, where we know from having once lived there, that road traffic accidents are an even bigger hazard than they are in the UK and rear end collisions are even more common. See if you can come up with anything better.
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