Pedestrian-avoidance only criterion, says Volvo researcher

Automotive collision-avoidance systems have been much in the news this year with developments from Ford and Volvo, among others. But the Euro New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) standards will only test them for their ability to avoid pedestrians.

Speaking to Carlton Reid of BikeBiz.com and QuickRelease.tv, Volvo software expert Dr Andrew Backhouse said: “Euro NCAP is planning to introduce ratings for collision avoidance systems. 2014 will see the first ratings. There is a lot of talk about testing the system on pedestrians. Nothing is planned for cyclists though.”

In 2012, 5,979 pedestrians were killed or seriously injured on UK roads, 420 of them fatally, so equipping cars with systems that detect and avoid them when the driver fails to  can only be a good idea.

But the situation isn’t much better for cyclists: 3,340 killed or seriously injured in 2012, and 118 fatalities. Manufacturers like Ford and Volvo are claiming that their systems can avoid cyclists - indeed Volvo’s system is called ‘Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with full auto brake’ - so those claims should surely be tested by NCAP.

Volvo’s system includes adaptive cruise control, which slows a car down if it senses the car in front braking, and was proving “very popular” Dr Backhouse said even though it adds £2,400 to the price of a new car.

The logical extension of all this technology is driverless cars, and companies such as Mercedes and Google have been working toward that goal for a few years now.

Carlton’s article on how driverless cars might affect cycling and cyclists is well worth a read. The CTC’s Roger Geffen said: “It might lead to vast improvements in cyclists’ safety, eliminating the risks from those who drive aggressively, irresponsibly or just without paying attention.”

On the other hand, roads filled with phalanxes of driverless cars would have no place for cyclists.

Driverless cars are suggested as a way to increase road capacity but according to consultant Brad Templeton, “the only way this works is if you remove pedestrians and cyclists from the equation. As long as someone can still step out in traffic who is not controlled electronically, then you really can’t increase speeds and volume much beyond what they are now.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.