New HUD could help minimise fog collisions

Written on September 15, 2014

Glasgow Caledonian University is currently developing a fighter-jet-style windscreen capable of displaying to drivers the location of other cars in dense fog.

The new heads-up display (HUD) could substantially cut down the amount of accidents that occur in poor weather conditions.
HUD is the work of Professor Vassilis Charissis and his team based in the Virtual Reality and Simulation Laboratory (VRS Lab) at the School of Engineering and Built Environment.

The display had originally been developed and evaluated in a 3D driving simulator capable of letting drivers navigate perfectly reproduced simulations of the M8, the M74 and the M80 in a number of different conditions. One of the simulator’s main options lets the driver drive down the motorways in a dense fog before giving them the chance to drive the same stretch again using the HUD.

When the HUD is initiated, the car’s windscreen highlights any other vehicles within a 400 metre range, and is even capable of letting the driver know when it’s safe to change lanes.

Professor Charissis said:

“Driving is a demanding psychomotor activity which can be significantly hampered by adverse weather conditions.

“Being able to see clearly obstacles on the road while driving, despite visual restrictions such as thick fog, is important to avoid collisions. Head-up displays are a potential solution to this problem as they can provide the user with information directly in the field of view, allowing the driver to remain focused on the road.

“The HUD system projects crucial information on the windscreen, using augmented digital input to enhance the real environment. The presented data can provide notification of road markings, the proximity of neighbouring vehicles and warnings of traffic congestion to enhance human responses and improve driving safety.”

Spatial and situational awareness has been shown to suffer in poor conditions, with other vehicles and objects being harder to see (and as a result, harder to avoid).

Professor Charissis is an award-winning computer scientist and engineer who’s participated in a wide range of different academic projects investigating Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

More than 150 different user trials have already been performed as part of evaluating the HUD interface, and the response times for every day drivers have improved by up to 70 per cent on average, indicating that the project could eventually have a huge impact on the UK motoring world.

Distracted driving accidents more likely on sunny days

Written on September 12, 2014

According to recently released statistics, the chances of having a near-collision whilst driving nearly doubles on days where the weather is good.

Lytx, the driver safety and compliance company, have determined that drivers are more likely to engage in distracted driving when weather conditions are clear. As a result, the chance of collisions occurring actually increases.

Del Lisk, vice president of safety services for the firm, said:

“Our data shows there are nearly double the number of near-collisions when the weather conditions are clear than when it’s stormy,”

“We have concluded that drivers are not as alert and may engage in distracted driving more often when the weather is clear.

“We have released this data to remind drivers the perils of distracted driving and importance to drive alert regardless of the weather conditions.”

Analytics experts at Lytx studied more than 2.5 billion miles driven between September 2011 and April 2013, finding that there are 8.6 near-collisions for every collision in clear weather, and 4.6 near-collisions for every collision in poorer weather.

Paul Jones, the company’s general manager in Europe, said:

“At Lytx our goal is to help make our roads a safer place for both the commercial drivers we support and the general motorists who share the roads with them.

“Over 1,700 people were killed and more than 180,000 people were injured on UK roads in 2013, according to Department for Transport figures.

“The majority of these incidents are due to human error and are avoidable.

“We’re dedicated to using our technology to help professional drivers adopt safer driving habits and measurably reduce the risk that is present on our roads every day.”

One million drug drivers on UK roads

Written on August 29, 2014

The equivalent of over one million UK drivers have admitted driving whilst on drugs in the last year, with just over one on ten people believing that they may have been a passenger in a car with a drug driver.

The new data, which came from road safety charity Brake and insurance firm Direct Line, also found that three in 10 UK passengers might not speak out to stop a friend driving on drugs.

The findings have come at an opportune time, with a new law set to come into effect on March 2, 2015 that will make it an offence to drive with drugs in your body across the UK. It’s hoped that the new law will make it much easier to prosecute drivers on drugs.

Julie Townsend, the deputy chief executive at Brake, said:

“Our message to everyone is never to underestimate the effects of illegal drugs on driving.”

The findings in the survey suggest a genuinely alarming level of ignorance or complacency about the negative effects that illegal drugs can have, especially among male and young drivers.

Three in 10 wouldn’t speak out if a friend was going to drive on drugs, and one in 20 said that they wouldn’t speak out even if their friend was clearly out of control.

Young people, and particularly males, were the most likely to have been a passenger with a driver on drugs. 18 per cent of young drivers and 15 per cent of male drivers admitted to having been in a similar situation within the past year.

Lucy Whitaker, a leading motoring law expert at Rothera Dawson, noted her surprise that the figures weren’t actually higher, saying:

“Unfortunately taking certain drugs such as cannabis seems to be just a way of life for some people. That being said, drug-drive cases are relatively few and far between, so we need to be thinking about the number of people that are putting lives at risk and getting away with it.

“Part of the problem is the fact that, at the moment, police can only take action against drivers if they’re found to be ‘unfit’ to drive through drugs.

“However, the situation will change dramatically from 2 March 2015 when a new law comes into place that will mean it will be an offence to be over the specified limits for each drug whilst driving, as it is with drink driving.

“The new offence will work alongside the existing offence of driving whilst unfit through drugs. Substances covered by the new rules include cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine.

“The interesting thing is that the limits for illegal drugs will be extremely low – according to the Think government website one smoke of cannabis could put you over the limit, so all of those people who admitted to drug-driving in the survey, need to think very carefully about their actions.”

Drivers told to cut engines or be fined

Written on August 26, 2014

Islington Council has decided to crack down on idling vehicles in a new campaign that is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Enforcement officers are tackling hotspots in the borough, trying to inform and educate drivers as to the benefits of turning off their engine.

An idle engine can release just as much pollution into the air as a moving vehicle. Completely turning off the engine, though, can reduce the amount of harmful pollutants being released into the air, as well as cutting down the amount of fuel used.

In addition to offering advice about the harmful effects that leaving vehicles idle can have, the council officers will also be able to hand out on-the-spot fines to drivers that don’t switch off their engines when asked.
Islington has worked alongside the Transport for London (TfL) to try and encourage high polluting buses to switch off their engines whilst idling at bus stops (such as when there is a driver change, or when the bus has reached the end of its route). However, the council believes that Boris Johnson, currently the mayor of London, could do more to promote the health of residents in the borough.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, the Islington Council member for environment, said:

“We are committed to improving air quality in Islington which is why we are clamping down on idling buses, lorries and diesel cars, as part of our air quality strategy.

“We are taking action to tackle the problem of air pollution in Islington but we need Boris Johnson to do his share: by introducing a low-polluting bus fleet, and addressing the high number of polluting lorries that travel through our streets on a daily basis affecting residents’ health.”

The Mayor has estimated that 200 deaths in Islington each year are caused by poor air quality. The new campaign is simply the latest part of the council’s scheme to reduce air pollution and increase air quality. It follows on from the launch of the Islington Air Quality Strategy, the introduction of 20mph speed limits and the ‘Air Text’ service for residents.

Cable gives green light for driverless cars

Written on August 23, 2014

Business secretary Vince Cable has given the green light for driverless cars to take to UK roads from January 2015.  UK cities can now bid for a share of a £10 million competition to host a trial for the new cars.

The government has called on Britain’s cities to join together with both business and research organisations to put forward proposals, with the aim being to become a test location.

Up to three cities are to be selected to host the trials in the new year, with each project expected to last between 18 and 36 months, starting in January.

Ministers have also launched a review to examine current road regulations and establish how the UK can remain at the forefront of driverless car technology as the technology awareness increases. The review will cover two areas of driverless technology: cars with a qualified driver who can operate the car when needed and fully autonomous vehicles where there is no driver full stop.

Speaking at a vehicle engineering consultancy, Mr Cable said:

“The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as a pioneer in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects.

“Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.”

The driverless cars competition is being funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skill and the Department for Transport.  The UK’s innovation agency – the Technology Strategy Board – is also a partner.

Successful projects need to be business-led whilst demonstrating close collaboration with partners such as technology developers, manufacturers and supply chain companies.

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said:

“It’s clearly very early days, but the right legislation and incentives could help our members add driverless vehicles to their fleets, enabling many people to have greater access to this technology.”

The Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) has already said that the initiative will be hampered by daily roadworks, potholes, worn road markings, failed traffic lights and burst mains.

George Lee, national director of the RSMA, said:

“By 2025, at least half the travel on Europe’s roads will be in vehicles that can read the road ahead including markings and signs,”

“But vehicles, like drivers, cannot function if basic road markings and signs are non-existent, non-compliant, worn out, obscured, inconsistent or confusing.”

Borrowing blow dealt to van drivers

Written on August 18, 2014

New figures suggest that 60 per cent of van drivers are still being turned down for funding by high street banks, despite the industry as a whole contributing more than £43.8 billion to the UK economy.

The study, which was put together by Mercedes Benz, showed that professional van drivers contribute more than £5,600 a year in fuel duty and tax alone, which is more than a fifth of their total income. However, high street banks are still considered a no-no.

Two-thirds of SMEs are expected to grow within the next 12 months, but a massive 58 per cent are still seeing their applications for funding turned down.

Pre-recession figures from 2007 show that 90 per cent of businesses applying for loans were successfully approved, highlighting just how significant the finance drop in recent years has been.

The Bank of England has already noted the fall in lending to small and medium sized businesses under the government’s Funding for Lending scheme. In 2014, net lending had decreased by £2.7 billion in the first quarter, with specific SME lending falling by £723 million.

The Bank believes that lending to SMEs is more risky in general, and requires higher capital in order to guard against bad loans.  Interestingly, figures from the bank’s industry body (the BBA) showed SMEs repaid £5.2bn of existing loans within the first three months of this year and were holding £138.1bn in cash – signs of strong economic recovery within the sector.

Steve Bridge, managing director for Mercedes-Benz Cans, said:

“It is staggering that while business van drivers contribute almost £44 billion to the UK economy, and make up of around 10% of the country’s total employment, their significant contribution to the economy is almost certainly forgotten when it comes to Britain’s banks.

“In order to ensure these businesses grow, whether they are sole traders or SME’s, high street lenders need to wise up and give back to such an important part of the economy.

“We see great potential in the SME market and want to work with this significant business community to best support them and their vehicle requirements however we can, be it through finance offerings, advice on running their vehicle fleet, or after sales care.”

Parking squeeze hits British Motorists

Written on August 13, 2014

Motorists are becoming more enraged by soaring parking charges, a reduction in spaces and the disappearance of free parking. The RAC has also warned that the problem may intensify in the next few months.

The RAC’s Report on Motoring 2014 has painted a negative picture of parking in Britain, with motorists in the crossfire.

The report shows that 80 percent of the motorists surveyed reported increased parking charges.  Two thirds believe that parking restrictions have become more stringent whilst the actual number of available parking spaces has declined.

65 per cent of motorists reported that many parking spaces are too small for modern cars.

The squeeze on motorists has led to two-thirds of drivers cutting the amount of driving they do. London motorists in particular have felt the pain of increased costs: 59 per cent had noted that their motoring expenses were now higher.

Four in ten motorists believe that their local authority is using parking charge revenue to subsidise non-motoring expenditure elsewhere.

RAC technical director David Bizley said:

“It’s time for a reality check when it comes to parking in Britain.

“We have to find a happy medium between the desire of motorists to get to where they want to go, which our research shows is driven in part by inadequate public transport provision in many parts of the country, and the need to keep our towns and cities moving.

“Parking has always been an emotive issue for the nation’s drivers – whether that’s caused by driving around city centres endlessly to find an elusive space, or a neighbour mindlessly blocking your driveway.

“So what is the solution? Britain’s local authorities have undoubtedly got a tough job to keep a growing driving population happy while allowing our high streets to thrive and keep traffic moving, but they need to think and act boldly.

“We need transparency. Councils should be compelled to report where the money raised from parking goes – giving drivers assurance that it is being ploughed back into road and transport improvements, rather than just plugging budget holes elsewhere.”

The RAC Report on Motoring can be downloaded from here.

CO2 emissions top car choice criteria lists

Written on August 8, 2014

CO2 emissions have become the number one criteria for company car choice lists, according to research from GE Capital Fleet Services.

The other two major criteria were fitness for purpose and maximum monthly rental costs. Together, the three criteria polled more than 50 per cent of the vote. The other remaining criteria polled less than 20 per cent.

The complete list is as follows:

  1. CO2 emissions limit
  2. Fitness for purpose
  3. Maximum monthly rental or cost
  4. Vehicle cost per mile
  5. Brand image
  6. Safety features
  7. Maximum engine capacity
  8. No criteria

Gary Killeen, commercial leader for GET Capital UK, said:

“These results are very much consistent with those that we have seen from our Company Car Trends research right through the recession and into the current economic recovery.

“The company car choices that organisations are making in 2014 remain very much based on providing vehicles that are tax and fuel efficient thanks to their low CO2 rating, are practical for fleet purposes, and can be acquired in a cost effective manner through a defined monthly rental.

“We may be heading towards better economic conditions but the fleet industries general mindset shows no signs of significantly changing.”

Several companies surveyed seemed to be taking more of a ‘post-recession’ view. The increase of terms one and two indicate that policy requirements could be loosening.

Company car drivers warned of ‘unexpected fines’

Written on August 4, 2014

Company car drivers could face heavy fines whilst driving in Europe this summer.  The peak summer holiday season usually sees an increase in UK drivers crossing the channel.

It is a legal requirement for drivers in Europe to keep documentation on them verifying their right to use their vehicle. Drivers without their original registration document can be heavily fined.

Steve Whitmarsh, fleet specialist at Run Your Fleet, said:

“Many company car drivers use their vehicles for leisure and may be oblivious to the laws of other countries.

“If you are taking your company car, as you are not the legal owner you won’t have the V5, but you are still required to take legal documentation that shows you are legally entitled to use the vehicle.

“This is in the form of a VE103 which is the substitute V5 and can be requested from the lease company, or one of the main motoring clubs.

“Many of our customers lease their vehicles, and we highlight the need for the VE103 for driving abroad, as we know that a driver or small business may be unaware of the need.

“A letter of permission to drive the vehicle from the company is not the same and will not be accepted, leaving the driver liable to on the spot fines or even the risk of having the vehicle impounded – something of a nightmare if you have the family on board.

“Once requested, the VE103 will only take a few days to come through, but it is worth allowing extra time on the run up to peak holiday times, such as the summer.”

Drivers should also take the time to ensure that:

  • They have the correct breakdown
  • They have  GB sticker displayed in the car (this is a legal requirement in many EU countries)
  • They have warning triangle and reflective jackets for each occupant
  • Breathalysers are in the cabin of the car if travelling through France

Surge in parking ticket appeals

Written on August 1, 2014

According to the latest statistics, there has been a 12-fold increase in parking ticket appeals during the last year.

The data, which has come from the Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA), show that 25,214 valid appeals were registered in the twelve months leading up to the 31st March this year, with 23,500 appeals being decided.  Of these, 10,661 (45.37 per cent) were allowed and 12,839 (54.63%) were refused.

Lead adjudicator Henry Michael Greenslade said:

“Popla is working well and is valued by the public. Since my last report the number of cases being decided has grown substantially and we are now receiving up to 600 appeals each week. However, the number of matters coming to appeal is very small in comparison to a figure of well over two million requests to the DVLA from private parking operators for vehicle and owner details.”

The service is independent of parking operators and the British Parking Association.  It’s currently operated by London Councils, which is also responsible for running Patas, the appeals service responsible for dealing with on-street parking appeals in the capital.

When an appeal is received it’s then copied to the relevant parking company so that they can submit their own case (including evidence).  Before any case is determined by an assessor, it must be considered and rejected by the company that initially issued the parking charge notice.

The news follows the ACFO parking seminar, in which it was revealed that six out of ten vehicle fleets don’t actually appeal their parking fines.