by Henry Wasung

It is axiomatic within the ITS industry that many if not all of the problems faced by Europe’s roads can be tackled through the application of ITS in various forms. Road safety traffic and fuel efficiency air quality journey times – even the driving experience itself – there is no aspect of road transport that ITS applications can’t improve. But do the general public – the final consumers of most of these applications – agree? And what happens when they actually get their hands on these applications? Do they use and appreciate them? Would they pay for them demand them?

The European Commission strongly backs advanced driver assistance systems and their widespread deployment. A large scale European-level FOT is an important means of verifying the real-world impacts of new systems at a European level and in particular to verify that European-level R&D has the potential to deliver identifiable benefits.

On 26-27 June 2012 the results of the first large-scale European Field Operational Test (FOT) on active safety systems – euroFOT – will be unveiled. The aim is to show the public – as well as decision makers and ITS stakeholders – the positive impact active safety systems can bring when it comes to safety traffic and fuel efficiency. The euroFOT final event will showcase the results of over 100 terabytes of data collected on European roads over the course of 12 months as well as present the lessons learnt during this unique experiment.

The importance of a FOT is that ordinary drivers’ behaviour is studied in real traffic. What is needed is to understand what the effect of using these systems is and what the impact on the driver and his behaviour in real-world traffic is. This is why a comprehensive array of 28 organisations – car manufacturers suppliers universities research institutes and other stakeholders – from ten different countries joined together in May 2008 in this EU co-funded project. Their goal: to rigorously assess the effectiveness of eight active safety systems on actual roads with real drivers while determining how they perform with regard to the intended objectives.

What is the key to a successful and ultimately useful FOT? A statistically significant number of real-life test drivers or vehicles? Massive amounts of data? A sound analysis of driver behaviour and user acceptance? Unobtrusive monitoring equipment and well-designed questionnaires? Transferability and comparability of results? Of course the answer is a well designed package of all the above elements.

To this end euroFOT used the methodology developed by the FESTA project dividing work into three stages: preparing using and analysing. With the project nearing completion the final sub-stage of socio-economic cost benefit analysis has recently been completed.

So after one year of field testing the 8 distinct functions assisting an impressive 1200 everyday drivers with 1000 vehicles on European roads in detecting hazards preventing accidents and making driving more efficient the euroFOT consortium is finalising the analysis of over 100 terabytes of data collected on European roads over the course of 12 months. The data was collected using a multitude of sensors and devices monitoring every aspect of individual driver behaviour in real-world traffic conditions. The consortium has worked flat out to complete this final piece of the puzzle in time for the final event in June.

To put that massive number of 100 TB into context 45 Terabytes (1 TB or 1000000000000 bytes from the Greek tera meaning monster) are equal to the first 20 years worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope; and there are 235TB of data in the US Library of Congress. Clearly a huge task and that amount of useful data deserves as much analysis as possible.

So far preliminary results using time-based driver questionnaires look positive especially when it comes to user acceptance and traffic safety. The test drivers were somewhat sceptical of the utility of the systems originally. However when they began using them 70% of drivers became convinced of their usefulness (the lane departure warning application in this case).

What’s more results have shown that there are positive secondary impacts to using active safety systems: Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) for instance proved to help reduce fuel consumption by 7% overall – the added value of the system thus extends beyond traffic safety.

The euroFOT final event will allow ITS stakeholders policy makers and the general public to see and experience the active safety systems in simulators – and talk to the euroFOT experts.

A comprehensive programme will take visitors from the design and methodology practical considerations and data management through to an in-depth analysis of results and impact and cost benefit assessment. The opening ceremony will feature high level representatives from the European Commission and the euroFOT consortium. In the exhibition area visitors will experience and be guided through the euroFOT project in three sequential stages – Preparing Using and Analysing – derived from the FESTA methodology.

The event is open to all upon registration including politicians marketing representatives researchers as well as others interested or involved in FOTs and experts who deal with data assessment and cost-benefit analysis.

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Original Publication Date: Wed 30 May 2012