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Vision Zero: the intelligent safety challenge

With the fourth annual Intelligent Safety Conference (ISC) taking place on 30-31 August, FISITA sits down with Frank Zhao, Professor and Director of Automotive Strategy Research Institute, Tsinghua University and Klaus Kompass, FISITA VP Europe and Professor of Vehicle Safety and Driver Assistance at the Technical University of Berlin. Frank is set to moderate a panel discussion on ‘Road to approval for L3 autonomous vehicles’ at ISC, while Klaus is Co-Chair of the Intelligent Safety Working Group and convenor of the FISITA Intelligent Safety White Paper subgroup.

Traffic crashes remain a leading cause of death around the world, leading to a transition towards software-driven safety innovation, which has the potential to half road deaths by 2030, and significantly reduce non-fatal injuries.

The arrival of intelligent safety systems, such as cameras and radars, provides new levels of protection to the driver and passengers. The technology has far quicker response rates to avoid potential danger compared to typical human reaction times. This not only further reduces crashes caused by driver distraction and general human error, but also significantly lowers the chance of serious injury in unavoidable crashes through the utilisation of advanced software algorithms.

Vision Zero

Over the last decade, the automotive industry has transitioned from hardware- to software-driven safety, in the pursuit of 'Vision Zero': a widely recognised ambition aimed at eliminating all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, and equitable mobility for all. Yet, intelligent safety also introduces its own unique challenges that will come alongside innovation including Driver assistance, vehicle automation and self-driving shuttles. The fundamental difference from the old era of transport relates to complexity and non-physical issues: The learning process will be long and requires a new level of mentality, perception, and skill.

Ultimately, Vision Zero is an end goal. To achieve this, the industry must carefully select the most efficient and effective measures to ensure optimum safety for businesses and their customers.

Modern engineering solutions

The transition to intelligent safety systems has had a major impact on industry professionals, with more traditional processes being phased out - software presents the next milestone.

Klaus says that the industry must intensify the use of new processes, such as virtual engineering and simulation. "Although hardware tests are still necessary today, most development crashes are now done in simulation. In ADAS and autonomous vehicle (AV) development especially, there is no longer a need for a hardware test-oriented development. The trillions of situations which need to be considered can only be analysed with intensive virtual modelling and simulation, which is another aspect of a continuously evolving development process."

Virtual development is key, but it is vital that engineers attain the right set of tools to assist in virtual crash testing, augmented reality simulations and even real-world testing processes. Although a lot has already been developed, Frank believes there is still some way to go.

"The more connected the vehicle is, the more effective it will perform. However, there are so many more aspects to manage correctly, which requires an even higher level of engineering, especially in testing engineers need to recognise the challenge and the importance to resolve these issues; otherwise, the digitisation of the industry will not be utilised correctly."

It is therefore imperative that engineers coexist with informed professionals outside of the traditional automotive sphere, including scientists, data analysts, tech specialists and governing bodies.

Protecting data and drivers

A modern car is a complex machine with a data-driven package of components that require intelligent software to maximise the capability of the hardware. This extends beyond the car, as it must be connected to the outside world, from the cloud to the surrounding road infrastructure.

The new digital age where the car operates as a mobile computer and is no longer a simple machine that takes people from A to B introduces new challenges for engineers to overcome. Frank says, “This is the first time that the industry has had to deal with cyber-attacks, which has created a totally new problem for engineers. We now have a lot of unsecured data within the vehicle which has already created more problems for these businesses. The industry is amplified in terms of intelligent safety complexity. The hardware is now being controlled by software, which generates new data that can be taken advantage of," he continues.”

Cyber security is considered an important challenge for all vehicle manufacturers and the wider Tier 1 and 2 automotive supplier community. The hardware and software systems must be connected correctly, as hackers are able to access the physical safety features of the vehicle through the software which controls the deployment. This can only be achieved if the different parties are able to maintain communication and establish a mutual understanding of all components within the vehicle.

Creating a global platform

No company can manage these challenges on their own. The need for validation and verification for ADAS and AV functions presents an infinite number of possible situations that need to be considered. Industry collaboration presents a chance to make these systems as safe as possible. The most direct way of achieving this, says Frank, is reaching a common understanding globally. "Collaboration is far more important than anything else. The problem will remain regardless of who you are. For this reason, OEMs need to work with the best suppliers and employ a sophisticated in-house technology team.”

Frank also believes that the industry needs to adopt an ‘equal system society’. “Everything today needs to be connected through the internet of things (IoT); we need to have a global platform where industry professionals can talk about the challenges and opportunities to fix the problems, including how we can work towards forming a global standard, sharing knowledge across the industry and implementing new practises that protect everyone.”

Engineers, legislation makers, service providers, suppliers and OEMs need to come together on a global platform to share expertise, knowledge, and strategies on intelligent safety, which will drive progress for the industry as a whole. Without attaining this common understanding and shared goal, the industry will not be able to achieve the ‘Vision Zero’ dream or effectively protect its customers as technologies evolve.

Whether student or CTO, business executive or innovator, FISITA offers its international connected community valuable insight and leading engagement opportunities to facilitate this much-needed international knowledge share and collaboration. In particular in this space, the FISITA ISC brings together global scholars, technical leaders and engineers from the field of intelligent driving safety. The upcoming conference will deliver a high-profile, national and international speaker line-up, which will consider and discuss the important topics effecting the safety of future mobility arena.

This year’s Intelligent Safety Conference will be held in Beijing, China, with in person and online participation available to registered participants. Check out the breadth of knowledge sharing opportunities and register here.

  • In recognition of the fact that intelligent safety is a priority subject to the international technical community of the automotive and mobility systems industry, FISITA has established an Intelligent Safety Working Group to explore an emerging area of technological and societal importance. For more information on this pre-eminent, international thought leadership group consisting of international safety experts contact us via

  • The first FISITA White Paper – Intelligent Safety Report created by the Working Group in 2020 has established the basis for future consideration, engagement and development in the area of safety. It covers key areas of the intelligent safety sector, including testing and regulation, safety architecture, consumer education and data recording. Read more here

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