Last modified on June 28, 2023

Who’s in control? Road safety and automation in road traffic

8 June 2021

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are systems that assist the driver in carrying out the primary driving task. ADAS observe the environment using sensors and are able to take over control of speed or driving direction, subject to the responsibility of the person at the wheel. Systems of this kind are also able to warn the driver in situations that the system considers dangerous.

Automation in road traffic can help improve road safety, but also engender new road safety risks. On the basis of accident investigations, a literature review and discussions with experts, the Dutch Safety Board has identified a number of types of new risks that are not yet sufficiently recognized or managed.

When they are placed on the market, ADAS are not yet fully mature. This means that following permission for use on public roads, they undergo further development. Together with the lack of knowledge among drivers, situations in which drivers fail to understand why the vehicle responds or indeed fails to respond in a particular way can quickly arise. In addition, drivers in vehicles fitted with ADAS play a different role than drivers in conventional cars, namely the role of operator.

In all its investigations, the Dutch Safety Board operates a reference framework. This framework lays out the standards with which the various stakeholders are expected to comply, in order to manage safety risks in a given field. Essentially, this reference framework is a question of responsible innovation. Based on this framework, the Dutch Safety Board has identified bottlenecks in terms of design, policy, regulation and supervision, data availability and learning capacity. In addition, the Dutch Safety Board provides in total six recommendations to the automotive manufacturers and the OICA and ACEA umbrella organizations (1), to the BOVAG and RAI Association (1), and to the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management (4).