“We will run through several scenarios today. First, we will analyse how the accident would pan out if the current legal standards are applied. Then we will show what braking performance would be possible with the latest technology, and finally we will look at what would happen in an accident without the use of a brake assistant,” says Daniel Junker, Head of Vehicle Experts at Baloise, explaining the schedule for the day. Baloise has been carrying out vehicle crash tests in partnership with the DTC for over ten years for prevention and awareness-raising purposes.
This year’s focus is a particularly hot topic: assistance systems for trucks. The debate flares up after every serious rear-end collision involving a heavy goods vehicle. “Could such an accident have been prevented?” people always ask. According to accident statistics published by the Swiss Federal Roads Office, 147 people have died in truck-related accidents in Switzerland over the past five years. “So it’s all the more important to build on the steps that have already been taken and work even harder to continuously improve road safety – just as the federal government is attempting to do with its Via Sicura programme,” says Gallus Bürgisser, Deputy Director of ASTAG.
The legal situation regarding emergency brake assistance systems for commercial vehicles is clearly defined throughout Europe: they are mandatory for any newly registered heavy commercial vehicle. Since 2018, this has meant that the system must be able to reduce the speed of the vehicle by at least 20 km/h when it looks like a collision is imminent. By law, the emergency brake assistants may be designed in such a way that the driver can switch them off. This is actually relatively common in practice, since the emergency brake assistants are not without their pitfalls: “The worst thing is when a car overtakes my truck right before it takes an exit. It’s reckless driving and puts me in a really difficult position as a truck driver: the emergency brake assistant signals ‘danger!’ and brakes suddenly.
It can’t foresee that the overtaking vehicle will dive straight off at the exit. The sudden braking obviously has consequences for the vehicles coming up behind me and people need to react quickly. We always urge other road users to drive considerately. It’s a whole different dynamic when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle weighing up to 40 tonnes. If emergency braking systems can intervene in situations where a lightning-fast reaction is critical – such as at the tail end of a traffic jam – then that’s a clear plus for us that we’re happy to accept,” said one of the truck drivers surveyed.
A test simulating a truck coming up behind a stationary queue of cars showed that use of an emergency brake assistant reduced the speed by 20 km/h and virtually halved the impact energy. “This proves that the legislators are basically on the right track,” says Daniel Junker. It’s also backed up by the comparison with the same accident simulated without the use of the emergency brake assistant, in which the truck ploughs at full force into the queue of cars – the first five at the back are crushed. “In real life, this accident would have resulted in a number of serious injuries, and fatalities too,” says Raphael Murri of the DTC, analysing the accident scene. This makes it all the more important that the law does not allow for emergency brake assistants to be switched off manually.
The demonstration drive featuring the Mercedes-Benz truck shows that the latest technology is capable of far more than what the lawmakers consider to be the benchmark. The Active Brake Assistant initiates emergency braking from 80 km/h and brings the vehicle to a complete stop in front of the obstacle. “The technology has been racing ahead of the legislation for a long time now. Essentially, the latest generation of emergency brake assistance systems are able to prevent most collisions by bringing the vehicle to a complete stop before it reaches the obstacle,” says Jürg Lüthi, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Trucks Switzerland. “Hopefully, the legal situation will be tightened up as quickly as possible at European level to make it mandatory for vehicle manufacturers to use the technology. This could minimise the more serious consequences of accidents and make a further significant improvement to road safety,” says Daniel Junker of Baloise.
If you would you like to observe a Baloise Car Crash Test in person, please send your contact details to email@example.com.