The AsPeCSS Project on Cyclist & Pedestrian Safety




Carmen Rodarius works as a scientific research engineer at the Integrated Vehicle Safety department of TNO. Within this group she has worked on various passive and active vehicle safety related items on customer as well as European projects like APROSYS, ASSESS or AsPeCSS.

Automotive IQ spoke with Ms. Rodarius about the AsPeCSS project as well as innovation in protection systems for vulnuerable road users such as cyclists.

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You are involved in the AsPeCSS project. How did this project come to life and what was the goal?

To give you some background about the project first, AsPeCSS stands for ‘Assessment methodologies for forward looking Integrated Pedestrian and further extension to Cyclist Safety Systems’. The idea is to protect vulnerable road users by developing (forward looking) safety systems for passenger cars. This idea is driven by European statistics. Overall statistics show a decrease in traffic fatalities. A major improvement is already achieved for car occupants. Unfortunately vulnerable road users are still at an elevated risk, as their fatality numbers are not decreasing as significantly. Industry is developing vulnerable road user protection systems. It was in the EU’s objectives to stimulate the introduction of these systems through the development of an assessment method supported by industry and research institutes.

How worried should the industry be about cyclist fatalities? How does the situation actually look like across Europe?

I think we should always be worried about fatalities. Every fatality that occurs is one too many and is worthwhile to prevent. As I already said, if you look across Europe at the fatalities and severely injured rate of cyclists, they differ from the overall traffic injury rates. There is a big need to do something on cyclist safety. If you look at the fatalities, you can see that 80% of the cyclist fatalities occur between a cyclist and a motor vehicle. If you look at the severely injured cyclists, you have fewer accidents with motor vehicles and a significant share (about 60%) of single sided accidents. A huge share involves elderly people. That is a special group that needs to be addressed amongst the cyclists. TNO works on protection systems for both categories; 1) in-car systems to prevent cyclist fatalities and 2) on-bike systems to safe severely injured cyclists.

What has been done so far in regards to innovation and protection systems for cyclists?

Cyclist protection is a matter of combining protection measures. Investments in infrastructure, correct traffic participant behavior and vehicle technology are needed for the optimal protection of cyclists. Quite a lot has been done on some of these aspects. There are always different angles that you need to take into account and it isn’t always the car that needs to do something. You also have to look at the cyclists themselves. How does the cyclist behave? How is the cyclist trained? What kind of protection measures does he take? And you have to look at infrastructure. For example, what locations do you have for cycling? Are the cyclists travelling on the same road as the cars? Do you have separate cyclist paths? How safe is the cycling in the environment in which you are cycling? You also have to look at the "vehicle" which on the one hand is the car, but on the other hand is the bicycle. It is a joint approach that needs to be taken investing in infrastructure, traffic participant behavior and vehicle to make road traffic safer.

In terms of accidents involving cyclists, is there any pattern? Are these caused by driver errors or by cyclists?

It’s both. In several studies the accidents of car to cyclist are investigated. Some dominant accident scenarios can be addressed but there is no clear outcome wrt guiltiness. Accidents mainly happen due to a combination of multiple factors. A cause that is often maintained is a "human error" by either the driver or the cyclist. Further the accident cause "looked but failed to see" is often found. If technology can help to minimize the human error, traffic safety can be brought a step further So you can’t really say it is always the driver or that the driver makes an error, and you can’t say that it’s always the cyclist that behaves badly, and that it is the cyclists that are at fault. It is a mixture of both.

Where does the solution lie? More in active or in passive safety systems?

It is not only passive or active safety, because passive/active safety systems would only apply to the car. It is more of an integrated approach that needs to be taken. The systems in the car help and are important, especially with the high-speed impacts. Active and passive safety both have their own strengths. Passive safety system mitigate impacts and active safety can help to prevent the impact or reduce its severity. By combining both you can optimize the effectiveness. Examples are AEB systems, or a VRU airbag that can help in case things do go wrong and there is an accident between a car and a cyclist.

What is the stage of development for cyclist protection systems around the world?

I would say they are in an early stage. Manufacturers are currently working mainly on pedestrian protection systems. Extension to cyclist safety systems is a next step. We believe that if you take the two together, meaning both the cyclists and the pedestrians, that you can address both with a system that works for both. But of course you need to take the cyclists into account at an early development stage to achieve that. The first cyclist protection system is already on the market. More will certainly follow with consumer testing looking into cyclist protection for future protocols as well.

It appears that the European market is now taking the lead in terms of finding solutions to reducing cyclist fatalities. How would this look in 10 or 20 years around the world?

Hopefully the other countries will follow. If you look at the automotive industry, it is not only an European automotive industry; it is connected all around the world. So when manufacturers are doing something for the European market, they can also introduce that into other markets. Hopefully the other countries will follow the lead that Europe has currently taken. There are a lot of counties that do not have the high safety standards that we already have these days so there is a lot of work that still can be done especially in these countries.

Thank you for your time.

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