Auto Laundry News - September 2012

Safe Driving

By Stefan Budricks, Editor

Last month, in this space, we explored the development of collision-avoidance technology and how it could be employed to enhance driving safety — and act in some small measure as an antidote to the ever-growing number of distractions with which drivers are being tempted. A little more distant was the prospect of autonomous cars.

Well, no sooner had the August issue of Auto Laundry News rolled off the presses when word crossed my desk that KPMG LLP (the audit, tax, and advisory firm) and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) had just published a report titled “Self-Driving Car: The Next Revolution.” This report helps dispel any doubts one might have had about self-driving or autonomous cars being the products of real, achievable technological advances rather than the stuff of a Walter Mitty fantasy world.

The KPMG/CAR report foresees the convergence of sensor-based and connected-vehicle technologies and it having a positive effect on the adoption of both systems. In fact, Richard Wallace, director of transportation systems analysis at CAR and co-author of the report, believes that the marketplace will not merely “accept self-driving vehicles, it will be the engine pulling the auto industry forward.” The report lists some of today’s vehicle-related problems the emerging technology can help solve: the high cost of traffic accidents and transportation infrastructure, countless hours wasted in traffic jams, and wasted urban space dedicated to parking lots.

It is the high cost of traffic accidents — and, more specifically, the high cost of accident-related employer liability — that motivated Drive by Example (www.drivebyexample.com), a drivers’ safety organization, to launch its Drive by Example Corporate Protection Program. According to the organization, recent multi-million-dollar judgments against companies whose employees killed or injured other drivers and/or their passengers, while using cell phones, have forced companies to address this “new universe of risk.”

Drive by Example warns that putting in place policies and procedures to regulate employee use of cell phones may not be enough to limit risk and liability. Without a sustained driver safety program, employee behavior may relapse and employer liability may actually be amplified should an accident occur as a result. The employer, by instituting a policy, would have acknowledged that distracted driving was a problem, Drive by Example explains, but, in the absence of an ongoing training program, would have failed to ensure that it did not occur.

Bruce Huber, vice president of safety services at inthinc Technology Solutions Inc., a company centered on telematics and driver safety solutions, agrees that merely creating policies does not necessarily affect change.

“Policies cannot stand alone,” he says. inthinc manages driver behavior through a proactive solution that verbally coaches drivers in real time to form safer driving habits — in other words: ongoing training. inthinc claims its program can reduce accidents by 90 percent.

Drive by Example anticipates challenges in enforcing cell-phone-use policies. It acknowledges the existence of a continual temptation for employees to multitask using cell phones and smartphones while driving due, in part, to the quest for increased business productivity — but not only for business purposes nor only while driving. More often than not, one suspects, the multitasking involves socializing online and working at the same time.

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