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Institution of Mechanical Engineers calls for blind spot sensors to be made compulsory on HGVs and buses

Professional body makes appeal in its Intelligent Transport Intelligent Society report, published today

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has called for all lorries and buses in the UK to be equipped by 2015 with technology to prevent cyclists from being killed or seriously injured as a result of their being in ‘blind spots’ alongside large vehicles. The appeal has been made in a report published today, Intelligent Transport Intelligent Society.

The professional body’s demand for the technology to be employed follows similar calls from road safety campaigners including See Me Save Me, set up by the family of cyclist Eilidh Cairns who was killed by a lorry in London three years ago, and which highlights on its website a study from the Transport Research Laboratory which outlines the inadequacies of mirrors currently required to be fitted to lorries in making drivers aware of what is happening around their vehicles.

The report published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers also urges that automated emergency response systems, which can alert emergency services to a incident even where the driver is unconscious and provide the vehicle’s exact location using GPS, be incorporated into all new road vehicles within the next two years.

Philippa Oldham, Head of Transport at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, commented: “The alarming rise in cyclist deaths on British roads needs to be addressed urgently. Cyclist deaths have risen by 7% in the past year, with about eight cyclists being killed or seriously injured daily on British roads.

“A number of these deaths could be prevented if technology to prevent driver ‘blind spots’ were made mandatory for all large vehicles.

“New intelligent transport technologies have the potential to save thousands of lives. Cyclists, pedestrians and other road users could all benefit but, just as with seatbelts thirty years ago, we need policymakers to work with the automotive industry to make them mandatory,” she continued.

“By putting the UK at the forefront of intelligent transport technology we can also build an industry that is set to redefine the car in the next few decades, tapping into a market that will be worth about £40 billion by 2020,” she added.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers says that HGVs constitute 5 per cent of the traffic on Britain’s roads but are involved in 20 per cent of all incidents in which a cyclist is killed, and says that the mandatory use of technology to warn drivers of the presence of cyclists in blind spots  “could make the roads safer for millions of cyclists across the UK.”

It adds that electronic safety systems fitted to vehicles which automatically raise the alarm to the emergency services in the case of serious incidents involving cars could cut road deaths by up to 10 per cent.

Its report also calls for the government to roll out a national co-ordinates charging and information system for all public transport across the country within the next five years, similar to the Oyster card in use in London.

It also says that the Transport Systems Catapult, launched earlier this month by the Technology Strategy Board, should work alongside industry “to develop an agreed unified vision for Intelligent Transport Systems across the UK’s entire transport network within the next three years.”

Other intelligent transport systems which the report says could lead to greater safety and efficiency in travel include:

  • A lane guide system which uses lasers or infrared sensors to continuously monitor the vehicle’s lane and alerts the driver if he/she unintentionally begins to wander out of lane.
  • Autonomous vehicles like the Google driverless car which uses information gathered from Google Street View, artificial intelligence software with input from cameras and sensors to control the car.
  • Pedestrian protection through sensors in the front bumper area. These sensors send data to an engine control unit which analyses it and could stop the vehicle automatically in an emergency.
  • Speed-proportional steering which automatically provides more power-steering during low speed and parking manoeuvres and less power-steering at high speed.
  • Vibrating steering wheel which notifies drivers of possible collisions, lane departures or drowsiness.

Report author Philippa Oldham will be participating in a live Q&A on the topics it covers this afternoon between 3pm and 4.40pm,  which you can follow on the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Twitter stream.


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Pjrob | 12 years ago

The problem is really in the design of trucks. I know from experience the sense of safety within one is extremely different to that around them. Within you feel safer than you should. Outside they can be quite frightening for any unprotected person nearby.
On a recent trip to Scandinavia, always a place with a good safety conciousness, I noticed a preponderance of tractor tipper-trailer combinations in the cities rather than tip trucks. This is probably a good, if partial, solution which could be tried as the sense of safety for those working around them, largely due to the visual openness of their design, is very different to that of trucks.

TheOldCog | 12 years ago

train more cyclists - eg every year 6 pupil in the UK, reagrdless of where they live or what policy a local council chooses to adopt. Also offer more work place cycle training for adults, fit stickers to the back of all vehicles longer than a LWB Transit warning cyclists not to under take and run some videos on TV, like the Dept for Transport does for motor cycles - all this would address the problem in a way that doesn't impede the already hard hit haulage industry and also the above doesn't rely on a piece of tech saving a persons life!

OldRidgeback | 12 years ago

The technology actually works very well, or the systems I've seen do anyway. Some contractors are already fitting them.

Paul J | 12 years ago

I'm very sceptical of some of this. It seems to be the kind of mental vesting of the "technology will fix this" attitude to road safety that often has little evidence to justify it, fails to grasp the human factor in accident causation (e.g. risk compensation), which then leads to little improvement in actual road safety.

E.g. these cyclists sensors, how much actual warning can they give? If they give lots of advance warning, then they're going to go off quite a lot and drivers simply will be complacent about them. Indeed, there may not be any change in behaviour.

A better solution, adopted in some continental places, would be to bar very large trucks from dense urban areas...

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