Considering the high impact that vehicle accidents have on human health, the recent progress within the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Pretoria into developing a new Antilock Braking System (ABS) algorithm that is particularly suited to bad roads and can assist cars in braking more safely and more quickly is encouraging for future drivers.
Vehicle safety has a significant impact on the health of humans globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report on road accidents, more than 3700 people die on the world’s roads every day and tens of millions of people are injured or disabled every year. Road traffic injuries are the eighth leading cause of death for all age groups and more people die because of road traffic injuries than from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, or diarrheal diseases.
Furthermore, the risk of road traffic death is more than three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries, as road infrastructure is strongly linked to fatal and serious injury causation in road traffic collisions.
Unfortunately, there has been no reduction in the number of road traffic deaths in any low-income country since 2013. Vehicle safety is increasingly critical to the prevention of crashes and has been shown to contribute to substantial reductions in the number of deaths and serious injuries resulting from road traffic crashes. Features such as electronic stability control and advance braking are examples of vehicle safety standards that can prevent a crash from occurring or reduce the severity of injuries.
Low- and middle-income countries typically rely on agriculture and mining to generate income, meaning that the economically active portion of the population is often located in rural areas with poorly designed roads and other infrastructure. The limited application of modern safety technology to challenging driving environments needs to be addressed to maximize the benefits of these systems.
Significant advances toward vehicle safety have been made over the last few decades; one such advance is the development of ABS. ABS is becoming more and more prevalent, driven largely by legislation in the European Union (EU) and the United States requiring ABS on almost all vehicles. These modern vehicles are also being sold in developing, low-income countries, often without adapting them to the challenging environmental conditions typical of roads in these countries.
Ricardo de Abreu, who recently completed his Masters’ degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pretoria, developed a new ABS algorithm, specifically designed to be used on bad roads. This new ABS algorithm makes use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve emergency braking on rural roads without compromising the braking performance on urban roads. His new algorithm reduced the amount of wheel lock-up during straight-line braking and when braking in a turn. De Abreu says: ‘The successful application of an intelligent algorithm to a difficult, real-life scenario presents many future implications. While intelligent algorithms are complex, it remains important to understand the fundamentals of the problem at hand to ensure the algorithm can be as successful as possible.’
Hard braking on a poor road is a particularly challenging job for ABS systems
It is anticipated that the new algorithm will enhance vehicle safety in more challenging environments. The next steps are to further improve the performance of the new ABS by including stability control and validating its performance experimentally.