7 safety features that'll soon be mandatory in your van

The EU is introducing a range of mandatory safety features in new vehicles from 2022 – and the UK is expected to follow suit, regardless of what happens with Brexit.

The European Parliament has voted to go ahead with new minimum vehicle safety standards, starting from 2022.

From that point forward new vans and cars will need to be fitted with the latest safety technology. The idea is to rely on technology to reduce human error, which the European Commission says leads to 90 per cent of fatalities and injuries on the road.

Here are the nine new safety features that the European Commission specifically calls out. It’s expected that they’ll help drivers gradually get used to automated driving assistance – and “save over 25,000 lives and avoid at least 140,000 serious injuries by 2038.”

For cars, vans, trucks, and buses

1. Intelligent Speed Assistance

This is the headline change that the UK press has widely reported as ‘speed limiting’ technology. It works by using GPS to work out the speed limit of the road you’re using. That limit is displayed on your dashboard. If you drive faster, your van slows down automatically.

You can override the limiter by pushing harder on the accelerator, but an alarm will sound on your dashboard if you carry on speeding.

What are the benefits of the technology?

This is Money reports that navigation app Waze introduced a function last year to let drivers know when they’re speeding. Waze claimed that “average speeds fell by two per cent globally as a result”, as drivers became more aware of changing speed limits on the road.

Are there any downsides?

But AA president Edmund King said the “best speed limiter is the driver’s right foot and the driver should use it to do the right speed in the right situation.”

He said that drivers need to be able to judge when to use less speed (for example, outside a school) or more speed (when overtaking a tractor). The Intelligent Speed Assistance technology could tempt drivers to drive at the speed limit in all situations.

2. Reversing detection and reversing camera

Van drivers will probably be familiar with reversing cameras and reversing detection. This is where a rear camera helps you when reversing, feeding the image through to a display near your dashboard.

This technology is already mandatory for new vehicles in the US and Canada. It helps when parking and aims to reduce rear collisions, alleviating the rear blind spot.

3. Drowsiness and distraction monitors

Road safety charity Brake says that a 2004 Department for Transport study found that “one in six crashes resulting in death and injury on motorways and A roads were fatigue related.”

In-vehicle drowsiness and distraction monitors are designed to alert you when you’re feeling tired. They do this by detecting physical movements like slow eyelid closure, the rate of blinks, and a nodding head. Some monitors can track lane markings and let you know when your van has crossed the line.

More advanced systems might also monitor your heart rate or brain function – and can learn your usual driving patterns, detecting when you’re driving erratically.

For cars and vans

4. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)

The RAC says that only a fifth (21 per cent) of new vehicles are currently being fitted with this technology, while 27 per cent offer it as an optional extra (for an additional cost). But from 2022, all new cars and vans will need to have Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard.

Through light detection and radar, or camera sensors, vans fitted with the feature can collect data to work out whether a dangerous situation is developing. If it thinks you need to take action, it’ll warn you – but if you don’t then do anything to avoid an upcoming collision, your van will apply the brakes automatically.

5. Lane-keeping assistance

According to Direct Line, this technology was originally developed as a ‘lane departure warning’ system, designed to help tackle drowsiness (and could form part of the drowsiness and distraction monitors mentioned above).

But the more advanced version of the technology is lane-keeping assistance, where your van not only detects lane deviation and warns you, but keeps your van in lane automatically.

Carwow says the technology is especially useful for those covering “seemingly endless motorway miles”, but no system is flawless – sometimes they might be “confused by unusual road layouts or faded or obscured road markings”.

6. Event data recorder

Event data recorders (EDRs) are often called ‘black boxes’ for vehicles because they perform a similar function as flight recorders.

TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), who helped the European Commission work out whether EDRs should be fitted in vehicles, says that EDRs “provide accurate and reliable information on the vehicle state and the timing and chronology of actions immediately before and during a collision.”

The information can then be used in legal situations, including accident claims. TRL says “there is a compelling case for fitting EDRs from the perspectives of safety and access to justice.”

7. Improved seatbelts

The European Commission says that it wants “crash-test improved safety belts” in cars and vans.

This could involve not only improvements to seatbelts themselves but improvements to the crash tests too. In 2017, Brake said it would support seatbelt reminders for all passengers (not just drivers) and improved “frontal and side impact tests”.

For trucks and buses

There are two more safety features that’ll only become mandatory for trucks and buses, but they may still be relevant for other road users:

  • specific requirements to improve the direct vision of bus and truck drivers and to remove blind spots

  • systems at the front and side of the vehicle to detect and warn of vulnerable road users, especially when making turns

What do you think about the safety features that the European Commission are making mandatory for new vehicles from 2022? Let us know in the comments below.

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