And the scope continues to grow. In addition to vehicle occupants, NCAP testers are paying increasing attention to more vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Today, Euro NCAP safety ratings cover four main a reas: adult protection, child protection, pedestrian protection and safety assist technologies. “This will give further impetus to the development of driver assistance systems, especially predictive systems,” explains Thomas Herpich. As ZF’s Senior Manager Legislation and Regulatory Affairs & System Engineering V & V, he is permanently engaged in dialog with lawmakers and the rating agencies.
For years, the company has stayed in regular contact with consumer protection organizations and the relevant legislative bodies. Intelligently designed safety systems help improve road safety around the world. Consequently, engineers actually welcome the associated challenges. “It’s our job to make vehicles safer. We’re constantly having to ask ourselves new questions and find the right technical solutions. Our systems save lives,” says Herpich.
And there’s still plenty to do, especially in view of foreseeable developments in automated driving. Here, the big challenge surrounds the moment in which control of the vehicle is handed back to the driver – the moment when the system signals to the driver, “it’s time for you to take over again!” The usual visual or optical signals might not be enough for a safe transfer of command. “So in this case, the driver’s seatbelt could tighten slightly, to attract his or her attention,” says Herpich, as he describes one possible solution. In this scenario, the traditional seatbelt – originally developed as a passive safety feature – acquires an additional communication function that transforms it into an active safety device. An evolutionary step the original developers of the seatbelt could never have imagined.