Important legal notice
Contact   |   Search   
Success stories Published on 26-Feb-2004

Title Networking for road safety

One in every 80 EU citizens will be killed on our roads, and one in three of the rest of us will require hospital treatment as a result of road accidents. These stark figures have spurred the automotive community to set up the European Vehicle Passive Safety Network, an association of more than 50 manufacturers, suppliers, research centres and universities which are seeking common solutions to road safety problems. With 13 projects already supported by EU research programmes, the network now looks forward to a further four years of activity under the Sixth Framework Programme.

The new THOR-FT frontal impact dummy developed in the FID project is expected to contribute to the harmonisation of crash safety standards worldwide.
The new THOR-FT frontal impact dummy developed in the FID project is expected to contribute to the harmonisation of crash safety standards worldwide.
Mile for mile, road transport is the least safe mode of travel in the European Union. On average, there are 1.1 deaths per 100 million person-kilometres, compared with 0.08 for air travel and 0.04 for rail. Within that figure the rate varies widely from 0.08 for buses and coaches to 0.8 for cars, and no less than 16 for motorcycles. It adds up to a lot of avoidable deaths – one in every 80 EU citizens will end their life in a road accident – and many more injuries. In 1995, more than 40 000 people were killed on EU roads, a figure the European Commission wants slashed to 20 000 by 2010.

Part of the solution is to design cars so that road users are protected when accidents occur, a principle known as passive safety. For example, seat belts and air bags protect passengers, while careful design of the front of a car can reduce injuries to pedestrians. But safety research is expensive, and it makes little sense for competing manufacturers to duplicate work on similar problems.

“The idea for a network came from the sector itself,” recalls Muriel Attané of TNO, the Dutch national centre for applied research. “People said that although many things were being done in the area of passive safety there was not much exchange between the different actors, and it would be more efficient if they could meet and discuss common problems.”

The result was the European Vehicle Passive Safety Network (EVPSN), a four-year project set up in 1998 under the Fourth Framework Programme and coordinated by TNO. But it was not easy to persuade former competitors that there was benefit to be gained from co-operation. “Not all the actors were working together at that time,” Attané says. “There was considerable competition between the different research laboratories and universities that were working on the issues, and of course between the car manufacturers themselves.”

More than 50 members
THOR-FT in action.
THOR-FT in action.
Extended for a further two years under the Fifth Framework Programme, the network has grown to encompass more than 50 members from 15 countries, including several outside the EU. As well as research centres, universities and suppliers, the partners now include major car manufacturers such as DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, Ford, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda and Volkswagen.

“It is a process of learning by doing,” Attané notes. “The network is a communication tool between the different actors but the partners also undertake projects together, both within our network and outside. The more you get used to working together the more you have shared ideas which allow you to go even further.”

The partners have proposed 15 collaborative projects, 13 of which obtained funding under the Fourth and Fifth Framework Programmes. A conference in November 2003 reviewed many of these projects, such as FID (Frontal Impact Dummy) which has designed a sophisticated crash-test dummy called THOR-FT. “The dummy gives you a lot more information on how the passenger reacts in the car,” says Attané. “You can use dummies to test air bags as well as other types of restraint systems, for example.” The project team is in discussion with organisations in the US and Japan to seek international harmonisation on the use of dummies.

Other recently completed projects include Advance and VITES, which have created vehicle simulation tools to explore how cars behave in accidents. “Rather than crash a real car you run a virtual test,” Attané explains. “You may still need to make a real crash at the end but you can learn a lot about your car and try to improve it before you get to that stage.”

Major manufacturers
Other projects are designing cars with child safety in mind, studying how to avoid whiplash injuries to passengers, safety in buses and coaches, safety in roll-over accidents, design of roadside infrastructure, and ‘smart’ restraint systems that take account of the fact that people do not sit motionless in cars.

“One of the successes of this second phase is that we have greater involvement from industry,” Attané observes. Having major manufacturers on board lends weight to the network and helps ensure that project results are disseminated to those who can make use of them. “We organise many workshops in which we invite people from outside the network to participate when we believe the topic is of interest to them. And we also have an annual conference which is open to everyone.”

Although EVPSN2 formally ended in January 2004, plans are advanced for continuing its activities as a Network of Excellence under the Sixth Framework Programme. “At the beginning of April 2004 we plan to launch the Advanced Passive Safety Network (APSN) which will be the continuation of the current network. Transfer of knowledge is a key objective, and we will have new partners coming from eastern Europe, including Poland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Turkey, as well as from Israel.” APSN should start with 56 members but is expected to grow further in its four-year lifetime.

Alongside the network will be Aprosys (Advanced Protection Systems), one of the new-style ‘Integrated Projects’, which will tackle a comprehensive range of passive safety issues. Already 47 partners have signed up for the project.

“Our aim is to build a virtual institute so that we become self-sustaining,” says Attané. “We will have four years to work out our vision for the institute and what we expect it to do for us.”

  • Title
    European vehicle passive safety network 2 (EVPSN2)
  • Reference
  • Programme
    FP5: Growth
  • Contact
    Muriel Attané
    TNO Automotive Safety
    Fax: +31 15 262 43 21
  • Partners
    57 partners from Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the European Commission.