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The cutting-edge technologies that are helping tackle weather-related road accidents in winter

Derek Bryan, VP EMEA, Verizon Connect explains how transport technology is mitigating the risk of weather-related accidents

Courier, haulage, and passenger transport businesses are just a handful of the examples of the businesses for whom winter weather conditions can seriously impact the bottom line. Most important however is the threat posed to the safety of road users.

Between 2013-2018, the Department of Transport reported an average of 1,731 road traffic accidents per year resulting from rain, sleet, snow, or fog alone, of which almost a fifth (18 percent) were classified as either ‘serious’ or ‘fatal’.

Technological innovation has always been a driving factor in the evolution of vehicle safety, from the invention of the seat belt through to the impending arrival of the autonomous car. Today’s technology landscape, dominated by innovations such as IoT, AI and 5G, is no exception.

Gamifying fleet management

Companies with large fleets are using the power of the cloud to stream data captured by sensors on vehicles, allowing them to automatically send notifications to drivers when potentially dangerous driving behaviours (such as harsh acceleration and braking) occur. Rather than a method of reproaching drivers, these systems often use ‘gamified’ elements to encourage drivers away from dangerous behaviours. For example, an application will present key safety information in the form of a scoreboard and rank driver performance based on safety compared to others, encouraging them to improve performance.

Clearer insights and accountability with video as data

Since their introduction, dash cams have improved considerably in quality, and AI-powered versions are now transforming their functionality by automating video analysis. These solutions can now automatically review road footage to identify hazards and classify events by severity, relieving fleet managers of the burden of data analysis by alerting them to events that require immediate attention in near real-time. The combination of video and telematics data helps create a complete picture that empowers fleets to protect vehicles, employees, and other drivers on the road, while also enabling them to effectively address liability, if and when accidents occur.

Vehicles helping to create safer roads

Soon, vehicle sensor technology will be able to detect hazardous road conditions and automatically notify local authority maintenance teams about roads that need to be treated. In winter, this means road hazards such as snow or standing water can be identified and removed quickly, thanks to vehicles streaming data anonymously in near real-time. Still in its experimental stages, this Car-to-X based solution lays some of the groundwork for Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication in future, which could allow road users to transmit information regarding hazards directly to each other’s vehicles.

AI-powered sun visor

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) saw the launch of a futuristic rework of a staple feature of any vehicle: the sun visor. The new ‘virtual visor’ is a transparent LCD panel that uses a camera to monitor the level of driver’s eyes and then blocks any glare that could impact their vision. Glare can be an issue throughout the year, but particularly during the winter months when the sun is lower in the sky or when sunlight is reflected off wet road surfaces. Drivers will no longer need to constantly move, depending on the position of the sun, providing another example of ‘hands-free tech’ that can help reduce distractions and allow drivers to remain focused on the road.

Final thoughts

From improving efficiency to saving lives, innovations focused on improving safety are of critical importance for fleet-based operations. Since the first mainstream fitment of the seatbelt in the 1960s, new technologies have saved countless lives, reducing traffic accidents and improving traffic circulation by orders of magnitude. As the digital era continues to transform the world at an accelerating rate, the introduction of technology to reduce the risk of winter-related accidents is helping to consign numerous safety concerns to the past.