EU takes road safety to the next level

On October 23rd 2019, the European Parliament took a major step in reducing the amount of casualties on Europe’s major roads. This was the day that the new EU Directive for road infrastructure safety management (known by its legal term as EU 2019/1936) came into being. This new directive is an upgrade from the old directive dating back to 2008. It’s estimated that the amount of lives lost will be reduced by 3.200 and 21.700 serious injuries will be prevented between 2020 & 2030. So what does this new directive prescribe that gives it its potential to be a life saver?

There are 3 major distinctions between the old directive and the new one:

  1. It applies to more roads
  2. It has a more proactive character
  3. It focuses more on vulnerable road users (cyclists and pedestrians)

1. Bigger scope

The old directive only applied to the so-called TEN-T network, which consists of major trans-european roads and EU-subsidized infrastructure. In the new directive, the scope will be increased to all national motorways and primary roads (the highest class under motorways). Even new roads that are still in the design phase will be evaluated on their safety characteristics. Member states are free to extend the scope of the road safety assessments even beyond this.

2. Proactive

The new directive is a lot more proactive in its approach towards road safety than its predecessor. In the old situation there was a strong focus on accident hotspots. If there was a piece of road that showed significantly more accidents than expected, an in-depth survey would be done on this particular stretch. In these road safety inspections the cause of the increased accidents was determined and the output was used to define appropriate mitigating action. In the new situation, all major roads need to be inspected and based on 59 predefined safety criteria. From the outcome of this complete proactive survey, dangerous road sections can be identified and improved before they take lives.

3. Vulnerable road users

In the new directive there is a lot more focus on the facilities for (motor)cyclists and pedestrians. This is a group that was overlooked in the old directive, but accounts for 47% of all road casualties within the EU. It is therefore no surprise that the European Cyclists’ Federation was a strong lobbying force behind the directive upgrade. In EU 2019/1936, specific attention will be directed to the existence of secure crossings and alternative routes or separations from high-speed motor traffic.

The Challenge

All member states are required to have the new directive transposed into their national laws by October 2021. This is already a challenge for many of the countries. The real challenge however is how to survey all the subjugated roads accurately and report on the 59 safety criteria. The deadline for the road scans to be completed is set in 2024 and a full scan needs to be repeated at least every 5 years. In order for the safety assessments to have real value, accurate localization and measurement of dangerous sections is of the essence.

This is where AI & computer vision will come into play. These technologies allow for rapid, yet reliable analyses of a multitude of objects from 1 single scan. Scanning roads with mobile mapping vehicles, equipped with LiDAR and RBG cameras will be the most effective way of doing this. This data can be processed by smart algorithms that will turn the scan output into a digital twin of the roads. In this virtual copy of reality, the algorithms can locate, categorize and measure any object that is relevant to the safety audit. Sobolt wants to contribute to safer roads and fewer casualties.

Do you want to know more about road safety & scans?

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