Greetings from the Southern Hemisphere,
With the excitement of HVTT14 in November I overlooked the fact that it was my turn to write the monthly newsletter is November. I apologise for the oversight. To those of you who attended HVTT14 in Rotorua, I would like to offer my thanks for your contribution towards making it a very successful symposium. We had 146 delegates and more than 50 papers. All of the feedback that I have received has been very positive. To those of you who weren’t able to attend I offer you my sympathy and to notify you that HVTT15 will be in Rotterdam in September 2018. It is never too early to start planning.
It is traditional to start these newsletters with a weather report of the author’s local region. This is not very exciting. Although we are now one month into summer, the weather is still very “spring” like with quite a bit of wind and rain. The temperatures are pleasant enough in low 20s centigrade but summer has not truly arrived yet. However, I am leaving for Washington DC tomorrow an ITF Roundtable on commercial vehicle safety systems and the TRB conference so I think that in two days time, temperatures in the low 20s centigrade will be quite appealing.
In New Zealand, Christmas marks the start of the summer holiday period and, from a road safety perspective, one of the most dangerous times of the year. This year has been particularly bad for us. The annual road toll is the highest it has been since 2010 and for the holiday period which, this year, runs from Christmas eve till Jan 4th, the number of fatalities is already the highest it has been for five years and there are still two days to go. It is not clear what the reason for this upward spike is. The underlying trend is downwards and the “spike” doesn’t appear to be statistically significant but 326 deaths last year that are potentially nearly all avoidable should be unacceptable for any society. Clearly the potential effectiveness of passive safety systems is limited by the laws of physics. Any impact between a small vehicle and a large vehicle will almost inevitably have more serious consequences for the small vehicle. Active safety systems do have the potential to eliminate the road toll and with development of autonomous vehicle technology we are seeing very rapid progress in this area. The possibility of zero road fatalities in the foreseeable future is real. These are exciting times for road transport.
Best wishes to you all for the coming year.
John de Pont