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Increasingly Challenged and Overwhelmed

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Tags: ZeroAccidents, AutonomousDriving, #MobilityLifeBalance

For many people, having the option of deciding what to do with their own time is a luxury – which makes it an exception rather than the rule. Anyone unable to do so quickly becomes stressed.
Achim Neuwirth, July 01, 2019
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Achim Neuwirth has been writing for ZF since 2011. He has specialized in writing texts about all kinds of car-related topics: from vehicles to the technology behind them, to driving and traffic.
This condition arises frequently on the daily commutes to and from work. Something needs to be done about this urgently. Using a direction indicator when leaving a roundabout, observing the minimum distance when overtaking a cyclist, paying attention to oncoming traffic and the prevailing speed limit, and overlooking a diversion notice while at the same time explaining to the child in the back seat that it must not unfasten its seat belt during the drive. A familiar scenario to every car driver. However, this also demonstrates that driving a car is, for most of the time, anything but a relaxed activity.

Growing complexity as a comfort killer

Growing complexity as a comfort killer

Nonetheless, the number of people who use a passenger car on a daily basis is increasing. Especially those who commute more than 25 kilometers to and from their place of work: 84 percent of employed people in Germany who have to cover distances of between 25 and 50 kilometers (twice) on every working day tend to use their car. Across the board, the car remains the number one form of transport, and that is true of everyone. Even in the year 2040, it will still be the guarantor of flexibility in terms of time and place.
However, and to a growing extent, it is wishful thinking to believe that you can get from A to B quickly and in a relaxed manner. It is not just traffic congestion that costs time. The search for a parking space at your destination can quickly make a mockery of your personal schedule. In Britain for example, car drivers spend more than 40 hours a year looking for parking spaces. Another damper on automotive liberty and comfort is applied by the increasingly complex road traffic situation. Traffic signs now resemble a forest, one that has been growing unimpeded for years. In Germany, any one of an increasingly complex range of traffic signs will be encountered on average every 28 meters. The operation of a vehicle is also becoming ever more complex. Years ago, a rotary switch was all you needed to operate the air conditioner, quickly and without having to look. Today, drivers have to look at a touch display and scroll their way through menus and sub-menus.
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Complex road traffic situations present drivers with a multiplicity of challenges

56 meters
of flying blind
is what drivers risk by taking their eyes off the road for just two seconds when traveling at 100 km/h.

Electronic assistant corrects driver’s mistakes

Electronic assistant corrects driver’s mistakes

Just the few examples given up to this point show how we are challenged by the increasing complexity inside and outside our vehicles. While complexity and stress levels are subjective parameters, there is no doubt about just how dangerous distractions can be: they are the second most common cause of accidents. No fewer than 90 percent of all road accidents are due to human error, with driver distraction the central factor behind this. This means that electronic assistance systems can not only simplify drivers’ lives, but can also help to make things safer. It is therefore all the better that in assisted driving mode, various sensors are keeping an eye on the traffic situation and the attentiveness of the driver at the same time. In that way the assistance system can effectively help preventive action to be taken before something happens.

Electronic helpers networked correctly

Electronic helpers networked correctly

That’s the theory at least. In practice, the operation of many assistance systems is still not intuitive, or they fail to respond in a self-explanatory way. Often, there is a lot of extraneous noise inside a car, and a seatbelt may be tugging at your shoulder, without occupants immediately knowing what is happening. The added value of an electronic assistance system then fails to deliver. Quite the opposite is true, in that the system itself becomes yet another stress factor. Often an exasperated driver will disable an assistant perceived as annoying, although this of course contradicts the basic concept.
However, there are also very many drivers who simply do not know what electronic helpers are on board, far less how to set them up. A possible way out of this dilemma is through a greater level of automated driving as well as integrated cockpit and operating concepts. Where a higher number of driver assistance functions are used together, the assistants respond much more harmoniously. That way, it genuinely makes the driver’s life easier. The Adaptive Cruise Control then knows precisely what the Lane Keeping Assist function is doing, and vice versa. A cockpit that can be controlled intuitively also helps to ensure that driver and vehicle are once again speaking a common and clearly understandable language. This is important, in particular during highly automated driving when clear demarcation is essential during handovers between machine and driver.
Many drivers do not even know how to use the electronic helpers in their vehicles correctly.

Reduce pressure, recoup time

Reduce pressure, recoup time

A higher level of automation can also help professional drivers. After all, excessive strain is now a daily companion for them too. Professional drivers in particular – whether at the wheel of a truck, a bus, a small van,or a taxi – are confronted with the consequences of rising levels of traffic congestion on a daily basis, with an ever growing number of trips, performed under increasing time pressure, and with a growing shortage of personnel. Right now, package delivery drivers are particularly badly affected. They have to deliver about 200 parcels during each shift. In rush hour, they contribute to traffic congestion, particularly when they block an entire lane while making a delivery.
In particular for the drivers of trucks and light commercial vehicles in downtown areas and depots, automated and autonomous driving functions can deliver immense benefits. Once implemented in the vehicle correctly, they can relieve professional drivers of certain aspects of their daily workload and task burden, making their life a bit easier. The same benefits can be obtained from intelligent delivery systems. In the context of smart logistics, these network cargos, delivery personnel, and consignees in an intelligent way. This takes away excessive strain while also achieving a saving in time, that ever more valuable luxury commodity.

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