Fleet operators and managers are being urged to fit Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to new vehicles as standard in a bid to improve road safety and reduce costs.

Incidents involving vehicles such as crashes can be costly, necessitating expensive repairs of damaged metal. In the worst cases, road accidents can cause death and injury to other road users and passengers, resulting in psychological harm and time off work, which can have a negative effect on the efficiency of business operations.

Research by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and JATO Dynamics indicates that 66.8% of new vehicles come with at least one form of self-activating safety system – as standard or as an optional extra.

However, industry bodies are calling on manufacturers to go further in fitting safety systems as a default option.

The SMMT report looks at a range of new technologies available to consumers, including autonomous emergency breaking (AEB), adaptive cruise control (ACC) and lane departure warning (LDW).

AEB, which avoids and reduces the effects of vehicle impact by automatically applying the brakes, is optionally available on 53.1% of cars. Overtaking sensors and ACC, which automatically speeds or slows a vehicle to safely match the speed of vehicles in front, are available on 42.1% and 36.2% of new cars respectively. The number of vehicles now available with collision warning systems is also up 20% on the previous year.

 “Reducing vehicle off-road time is a continual focus for all fleets,” said John Pryor, chairman of the ACFO.

“Advanced Driver Assistance Systems have a key role to play in not only keeping vehicles on the road and all road users – including employees – safe, but in fleet cost reduction.

“AEB should be standard on all vehicles, across all ranges,” said Pryor. “All available evidence points to its life and injury-saving potential and whether occupying an executive car or a city car there should be no discrimination in terms of the value of an individual’s life.”

While European Union vehicle safety standards were last updated in 2009, the European Parliament last year backed the inclusion of life-saving technologies – such as AEB, intelligent speed assistance and seatbelt reminders for all passenger seats – for all new cars sold in Europe.

However, an expected European Commission announcement with details of the legislative mandate has been delayed from March until May 2018. This means that any proposed new laws will not come into effect until at least September 2020.

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) now says that further delays may result in a bigger backlog for the proposed legislation as European Parliamentary elections get underway next year.

ETSC executive director, Antonio Avenoso, said: “It’s been more than a year since the EU finally announced the 19 new vehicle safety measures that it wants to see made mandatory on new cars in the coming years.  

“It’s a fantastic list of technologies that are available now, proven to be effective and affordable to fit. But since then it’s been left in a drawer gathering dust. 

“We want to see action now as a crucial first step to getting Europe back on track towards its goal of halving deaths on the road.”

Manufacturers in the United States have voluntarily agreed to include AEB as standard from 2020, while AEB uptake in the UK has been gradually increasing (largely due to the Euro NCAP five-star rating mandating its fitting).

Jan Kozlowski, fleet manager at Tristar Worldwide Chauffeur Services, has reported a significant decrease in accidents with AEB.

“Our Mercedes-Benz fleet is now fitted as manufacturer’s standard with collision prevention assist and has been for the past few years,” Kozlowski said.

“When this technology was new we saw a reduction in at-fault rear impact accidents of some 42% over an initial six-month period which was very significant. Now our executive fleet has this technology fitted as standard.”

Thatcham Research’s repair technology centre operations manager, Thomas Hudd, echoed calls for AEB to be included with new vehicles as standard.

“People don’t buy safety packs when they’re made available as cost options,” he explained. “The same is true of fleets – optional safety packs are dismissed from a cost perspective. This is exacerbated by the fact that safety kit isn’t factored-in when it comes to a fleet car’s resale value at auction.”

Additionally, Antonio Avenoso suggested that these technologies – and their widespread adoption – will be essential in the implementation of automated and autonomous driving within the EU. “There’s no time to lose,” he said.