Last modified on June 3, 2024

Safety is the baseline

3 June 2024

With economic growth coupled with transportation and an increasing population, the number of movements on the street is increasing. At the same time, EU citizens have a rising concern about road safety. These trends led the European Commission to adopt ambitious targets, building on the roadmaps for 2010 and 2020: by 2030, there must be a 50% reduction in the number of fatalities and severe injuries on European Roads as part of achieving ‘Vision Zero.’ These numbers are published annually as Road fatality rate per million inhabitants (figure below, 2023 numbers).

Vision Zero foresees a transition from the traditional approach focusing on Engineering, Education, Enforcement, and Emergency towards a Safe Systems Approach focusing on Safe Streets, Safe Speeds, Safe Vehicles, and Safe People. An important aspect of this transition is the safe integration of CCAM vehicles in the entire transport ‘Safe System.’

In September, the highly significant call “Better infrastructure safety on urban and secondary rural roads throughout a combination of adaptable monitoring and maintenance solutions” was closed, focussing on solutions expediting the transition towards Vision Zero. This call, along with the first project under it (EvoRoads) which kicked off in May, represents the latest and most promising developments in our collective efforts to improve road safety.

From a safety monitoring perspective, the call recognized significant investments in road assessment frameworks that have led to the development of the EU Network Wide Road Safety Assessment methodology and highlighted the need for novel data-capturing solutions. At the same time, the safety assessment frameworks focus primarily on the safety of private vehicles, leaving the requirements of the remaining road users overlooked. Because of this omission, no unified quantification of the currently defined KPIs are available to capture the safety of the entire transportation system, making it impossible to act on safety issues.

These safety issues become particularly clear when observing the micro-mobility trend. New modes are introduced regularly, and these modes are accompanied by behavior. The link between infrastructure quality and design concerning these new behaviors has (of course) not been investigated. Taking new (and upcoming) modalities into account with road safety design and maintenance will significantly contribute to achieving Vision Zero.

For road infrastructure maintenance itself, which is already labor-intensive, equipment-intensive, and costly, the lack of safety KPIs prohibits the definition of suitable measures protecting this workforce and equipment. Furthermore, the high proportion of secondary (32%) and local (65%) roads in the total length of the road network highlights the importance of developing effective inspection methodologies for these two types of road infrastructure. New technologies should be developed to increase the workforce’s safety and effectiveness, leading to a higher quality of infrastructure, which is needed for the safe integration of (Safe) CCAM vehicles.

These challenges combined led to the definition of the “Evolutionary Solutions for Realising a Holistic Safe System Approach for All Road Users” (EvoRoads) project. From the earlier picture, Spain, Italy, Latvia, and Romania are trial sites.

The project will start by defining a Safety Assessment Criteria Catalogue. This Catalogue will be supported by a suite of models for estimating and augmentation safety criteria and KPIs to better understand currently unexplored correlations between safety criteria and KPIs. Together, the information from these innovations will be linked into a Safe Mobility Data Space, like Data for Road Safety, allowing for a comprehensive overview of road safety within Europe.

By implementing novel monitoring tools alongside the Catalogue, the Safe Mobility Data Space will contain high-quality new-typed data from the start, effectively providing a Digital Twin for road safety. Using this high-quality data, novel proactive road maintenance management solutions can be created to assess the safety impact of road maintenance interventions directly. Furthermore, novel ways of assessing safety through ‘on-the-edge’ technologies and Micro-vehicle sensory kits with situational awareness will allow for deployment on secondary and rural roads and underserved modalities.

The output of these Advanced Monitoring Safety and Proactive Safety Warning Systems will be consolidated in the aforementioned trials to lead to policy and standardization recommendations, validated safety criteria and solutions, and provide ISAD levels for CCAM and angles of approach towards nudging users to elicit safer behavior.

Coen Bresser, EVORoads Project Coordinator and Senior I&D Manager at ERTICO