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Innovative Technologies Revolutionising Road Safety

In the rapidly evolving landscape of transportation, road safety is of paramount importance for communities worldwide, serving as a fundamental pillar for sustainable development and social well being. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.19 million people die each year from road crashes, making it a critical public health issue. Road accidents affect the poor more, as evidenced by the fact that 92% of the world’s accidents happen in low to middle income countries, despite them contributing to only close to 60% of the world’s vehicles. 

Additionally, vulnerable road users bear the brunt by making up more that 50% of road accident related fatalities, worldwide. Beyond the toll on human life, road accidents also exact a heavy economic burden on countries, costing most countries 3% of their gross domestic product. 

Road Safety Challenges

Global challenges for road safety encompass a wide range of interconnected issues that impact countries worldwide. Some of the key challenges are listed below

Unsafe vehicles: Several countries around the world do not have vehicles that meet safety standards, lack essential safety features, or are poorly maintained, increasing the likelihood of accidents and injury severity. According to the Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2023 by WHO, 79 countries do not have a legislation in place on vehicle safety at all. 

Inadequate and unsafe infrastructure: Lack of adequate infrastructure, poor maintenance, inadequate traffic signages, insufficient lighting and unsafe road design increase the risk of accidents in several parts of the world. According to WHO, despite countries spending 1 - 5 % of GDP on transport infrastructure, most roads continue to be built for the motorised vehicle fleet. 

Protecting vulnerable road users (VRUs): As mentioned above, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable on roads as evidenced by the fact that more than 50% of road accident related fatalities are of VRUs. Among VRUs, pedestrians and cyclists contributed to 23% and 6% of all road traffic fatalities, according to WHO. Further research also indicated that nearly 80% of the world’s roads fail to meet pedestrian safety standards and only 0.2% have cycle lanes.  

Data collection and analysis: Lack of or inadequate data hinder efforts to understand road safety challenges in several countries in order to develop effective counter measures. 

Unsafe driver behaviour / human factors: Unsafe driving practices and behaviours such as speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving, and failure to use helmets and seatbelts contribute significantly to road accidents and fatalities. 

Inadequate enforcement of traffic laws: Inadequate and inconsistent enforcement of traffic laws undermine the road safety efforts by allowing reckless behaviour to go unpunished, leading to an increased risk of accidents and fatalities. A recent, high profile example would be the road accident caused by over speeding and reckless driving by an underage driver on a high-performance car, killing  two people on a motorbike in Pune, India. The perpetrator was even let go on bail soon after arrest, with very minimal charges, causing an uproar in India. 

Inadequate post crash care: The impact of road crashes are significantly exacerbated by the lack or inadequate post crash care by prolonging response times, increasing the risk of fatalities and affecting recovery for survivors.   

Role of Technology

Technology plays an important role in addressing road safety challenges by providing innovative solutions for improving infrastructure, mitigating risks and improving driver behaviour. The automotive industry is witnessing significant transformations driven by technological advancements, with vehicle safety systems becoming a focal point of innovation. Today’s vehicles come with a diverse array of technologies, meticulously designed to protect not only passengers and drivers but also pedestrians. 

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) support in making vehicles safer and work by leveraging sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) and/or machine learning (ML) AI/ML algorithms to assist drivers in avoiding collisions and maintaining safe driving distances. Smart infrastructure solutions such as intelligent transportation systems and safe road design improve road infrastructure by reducing the occurrence of accidents. Blind spot detection and pedestrian detection systems are some of the technologies aimed at protecting VRUs. An  important aspect of bringing technology onto roads is to collect critical data which can be   processed further to identify high risk areas to implement counter measures to reduce accidents. It also serves as a way to monitor and measure the effectiveness of various road safety measures and strategies.  

Rise of Smart Cars

‘Smart car’ is an umbrella terminology used for cars with advanced electronics. They are equipped with advanced technologies to enhance safety, connectivity and driving experience. One of the most common features of smart cars is ADAS. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are a comprehensive set of features and technologies that assist drivers to drive safer, reducing accidents and elevating the overall driving experience. It works through a complex system of sensors, control units and actuators to provide information, warnings and assistance to the driver. 

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is a common safety feature of ADAS that assists the driver by braking automatically if it detects that a collision is imminent but the driver is not taking any action. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), AEB resulted in a 50% reduction in front-to-rear crashes and a 56% reduction in front-to-rear crashes with injuries in the US. AEB combined with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) or Forward Collision Warning (FCW) systems have higher effectiveness in reducing collisions. While ACC assists the driver in keeping the vehicle at a safe distance from vehicles in front by automatically adjusting the vehicle speed, FCW warns the driver of potential collisions ahead. 

Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems warn the driver when they are drifting away or encroaching a lane boundary while Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) systems automatically steer the vehicle or use brakes to prevent it from departing lanes. Several studies report an overall reduction in crash rates due to LDW and/ or LKA systems with numbers varying across countries. In the US, LDW systems were responsible for reducing relevant crashes by 11%, while a study conducted on Swedish roads estimated a 30% reduction for all head-on and single vehicle driver injury crashes using LKA/LDW systems. 

Blind Spot Detection (BSD) works by assisting the driver to avoid collisions by detecting vehicles in the blind spot area while changing lanes. Some cars have this in the rearview mirrors where the indicators lights up to warn the driver of an impending collision. According to the IIHS, BSD systems reduced lane change crashes by 14%


BSD system in use, warning the driver of a vehicle in the driver’s blind spot | CAG

Autonomous cars or self-driving cars are a step further to driver assist systems such as ADAS. These vehicles are capable of driving partly or fully by themselves with limited or no human intervention. While there are six levels of driving automation (from 0 to 5), with level 5 being the most automated, self-driving vehicle, today’s self-driving cars have reached level 3 with level 4 being tested by a few pioneers. 

While ADAS and autonomous driving are being used interchangeably, they are not the same. While ADAS assists drivers and enhances driver capability, autonomous driving aims to replace the driver altogether by allowing vehicles to operate without human input. 

While ADAS is available across the globe in different countries, the Indian driving experience is a complex challenge for ADAS systems. Unlike predictable traffic patterns and well marked roads in developed nations, Indian roads are much more chaotic, which can confuse ADAS sensors and potentially lead to misinterpretation by the system. Despite these challenges, ADAS manufacturers are constantly refining their systems to adapt to diverse road conditions. Indian and international car makers in India have taken note and some of them are offering customisable ADAS features on their mid-range models. 

Integrated & Safer Transport Infrastructure

Improving road infrastructure is a vital aspect for enhancing road safety. Roadside safety infrastructure such as guardrails, crash barriers, rumble strips and safer road design help mitigate the severity of accidents and protect road users in cases of collision. Well designed roads that minimise bottlenecks, enhance traffic flow, and minimise roadside hazards can have significant impact on safety on roads. In addition to design aspects, several other technologies also contribute to building and maintaining safer road infrastructure. 

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) integrates advanced technologies into transportation infrastructure and vehicles with the aim of improving safety, efficiency, and sustainability in transportation. It does this by enhancing safety and mobility for road users. Some of the applications of ITS are smart traffic management systems, advanced vehicle communication technologies, dynamic message signs, electronic toll collection systems, parking information systems and traveller information systems. Most of these systems work by utilising real time data from sensors, cameras and other sources to communicate with each other to improve safety and mobility. 

Several countries are researching, piloting and implementing various stages of smart integrated transport technology. An example is the Australian Integrated Multimodal EcoSystems (AIMES) which is a living laboratory on the streets of Melbourne to deliver safer and sustainable transportation. AIMES provides a collaborative platform for academics, government and industry to work together. One of their projects is the Kapsch Intelligent Corridor, which aims to reduce congestion by integrating with existing sensors for better traffic detection and data collection to change driver behaviour. 

Another great example is Singapore, an island with over 160 km network of roads and expressways, sensors and cameras that gather data on traffic flow, road demand and commute times. Singapore developed its first ITS master plan in 2006 implementing Operational Control Centers, Electronic Parking Systems (EPS), Parking Guidance Systems (PGS),  radar based traffic data collection systems and the i-transport platform among many more. The i-transport platform integrates and disseminates information collected from raw traffic data for traffic monitoring and incident management. The latest from Singapore is the Smart Mobility 2030 plan which is their ITS Strategic Plan for 2030 for a more connected and interactive land based transportation system.  

Empowering Pedestrians and Cyclists

A crucial element in creating sustainable, safe and livable cities is improving pedestrian and cyclist safety in cities. Despite improvements and developments in technology for road safety, a disturbing trend is the growing share of traffic fatalities being VRUs. Pedestrian deaths rose 3% between 2010 and 2021 while deaths among cyclists rose by ~20% for the same period. 

Several smartphone applications such as Google Maps (global), Strava (global) and Citymapper (covering Europe and the US) provide cyclists and pedestrians with tools for navigation, route planning and real time updates on transportation options, traffic conditions and more. Many regional applications have also been developed for bike and e-scooter sharing across the globe in cities, allowing for convenient and environmentally friendly transportation options for short trips. Some examples are Call a Bike (Germany), Blue Bike (Belgium), OV-fiets (Netherlands), LimeBike (global), Yulu (India), SG Bike (Singapore) and many more. 

More and more vehicles come equipped with pedestrian and cyclist detection systems. These systems are designed to reduce the frequency of pedestrian and cyclist accidents. Combined with AEB or other collision avoidance systems, these technologies are effective in reducing collisions with pedestrians and cyclists. A 2021 study conducted in Sweden found that the overall reduction on crash risk for AEB with pedestrian detection was 8% while for AEB with cyclist detection was 21%. However, no reduction in crash risk was found in darkness for both cases. This was also echoed in another study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) that found that pedestrian detection systems were ineffective during night time conditions. With research  underway to improve pedestrian and cyclist detection systems at night, these seem to be steps in the right direction to protect VRUs. 

Blind spot detection systems were also found to be useful in reducing the risk to VRUs through several case studies. 

Dedicated bike lanes and pedestrian friendly infrastructure go a long way toward decreasing the risk of collisions between vehicles and VRUs. Dedicated bike lanes (irrespective of whether they are protected or conventional bike lanes) reduced cycling risk by 32% in New York, echoed by another study by the Transport Research Laboratory that found a 40-65% reduction in cycling injuries by the installation of protected bike lanes in London.  

Similarly pedestrian friendly infrastructure such as providing footpaths can help prevent up to 60% of crashes involving pedestrians walking on the road. An example would be the 69% reduction in road crashes from improved footpaths and crossing in Puebla, Mexico. Low-cost infrastructure interventions like widening pedestrian footpaths, installing horizontal signs reduced the length of a pedestrian crossing, reducing their exposure time to risk. 

But despite these advances, a study conducted by the International Road Assessment Programme (2022) revealed that globally only 21% of roads meet a 3-star rating (accepted as the minimum acceptable rating for roads out of 5 stars) for pedestrians, 23% for cyclists and 40% for passenger vehicles, indicating that most roads continue to be built for motorised transportation. 

Harnessing Data for Insights

Data analytics and predictive modelling play vital roles to identify high risk areas and prevent accidents by analysing historical crash data, road conditions, congestion data and other factors. Several transportation agencies across the world collect and analyse crash data to identify trends and factors associated with accidents. By overlapping this data with other variables such as location, weather, road geometry/design, time of day, visibility and type of vehicle involved, high-risk areas can be identified and prioritised with interventions. 

Techniques like spatial analysis, clustering algorithms and heat mapping can be used to identify accident hotspots. These can further be aggregated and visualised using geographic information systems (GIS) on maps to understand the underlying reasons. Predictive modelling is used for risk assessment on likelihood of future accidents based on various factors and historical data. 

Several governments across the world are using data-driven approaches to improve road safety policies and interventions. An example is the Spatial Diagnostics of Road Accidents project in Mexico, which helped gauge road accident magnitudes and distribution of road traffic crashes in Mexico city in order to design interventions to prevent them. Another example is the development and implementation of the Road Accident Data Management System (RADMS) in Tamil Nadu, India together with the World Bank back in 2009. This was followed by the development of the Integrated Road Accident Database (iRAD) across various states in India. This has been instrumental in providing crash related data which further supported in providing underlying insights to prevent and improve road conditions to reduce fatality.  


The integration of innovative technologies is revolutionising road safety on a global scale, offering opportunities to mitigate risks and save lives. From advanced driver assistance systems to vehicle-to-everything communication, technologies are reshaping the landscape of transportation, making roads safer and more efficient for users. Although the approach may differ across countries, it is important to continue investing in research, development and implementation to pave the way for a future where traffic accidents are reduced, ensuring safer journeys for generations to come.

While India has made a lot of effort to improve road safety, there is still a long way to go, with  several challenges that hinder its effective implementation, some of which are mentioned below: 

  • India’s diverse road infrastructure presents challenges in implementing uniform safety technology
  • New technologies come with a high cost of implementation that includes significant investment in infrastructure, equipment and skilled manpower
  • Regulatory framework not keeping pace with technological advancements can hinder adoption of new safety technologies
  • Lack of awareness among the public and policy makers 
  • Difficulty in changing ingrained behaviours such as speeding, reckless driving and non-compliance with traffic rules
  • Fragmentation and lack of coordination between multiple agencies for effective implementation

Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, involving data, infrastructure and regulatory support through collaborative efforts including government agencies, private sector stakeholders, civil society organisations and the public. By addressing infrastructure gaps, improving regulations, raising awareness, and fostering collaboration, India can overcome these hurdles and effectively adopt road safety technology to save lives and reduce accidents on its roads.

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