Experts urge use of technology to prevent road accidents

By Liu Caiyu in Hefei Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/2 18:43:39

A car rolls over during a traffic accident in Beijing in May. Photo: IC

Chinese experts have urged the application of VR technology, used for testing drivers' behaviors, to reduce traffic accidents before self-driving vehicles replace human drivers in the coming decades.

Drivers are the biggest cause of traffic accidents in China, which annually kill over 200,000 people in the country, experts said at a conference held in Hefei, East China's Anhui Province over the weekend.

Wearing VR glasses, drivers are instructed to go through a pre-driving test step by step, which is meant to detect their mental and physical judgment before they can actually take to the road.

Active prevention

Physical and mental indicators, neutral hormone and genome of drivers can clearly differentiate drivers more likely to cause accidents from those who can drive safely, Jin Huiqing, the director of the National Center of Engineering and Technology for Vehicle Driving Safety, told the Global Times.

The VR machines are capable of evaluating their estimation of the speed of vehicles and their knee-jerk reaction to an emergency.

The technology aimed at prompting active prevention mechanism in traffic accidents, such as the VR simulation system and self-testing system for drivers, will help prevent traffic accidents in future, Jin said. The mechanism emphasizes self-awareness and training.

"The self-testing system, composed of physical and mental testing tools, is expected to be widely pushed into public transportation companies, including buses and taxis, and private cars in future," said Jin.

AI development

As driver behavior is at the heart of traffic accidents across the world, experts speaking at the conference believe that the only way to dramatically reduce crash risk is to remove drivers in future.

However, AI in traffic still cannot compete with the wisdom humans possess. Neither artificial intelligence nor automated vehicles can totally replace human within two decades, Roger McCarthy, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, told the Global Times.

The self-driving vehicles are still not sensible enough to acquire nearby vehicles' speed and judgment in emergency situations, McCarthy said.

China has included artificial intelligence (AI) into its development plan, which aims to bring China to the same level as other global leading powers by 2020.

The AI industry will grow into a major driver for economic growth and lend new ways to improve people's livelihood by 2020, according to the Xinhua News Agency, citing the national plan on the development of new-generation AI in the country.

"China's intelligent traffic system is still at a starting stage as the industrial rules and design are still not completed and unified," Wang Longde, an academician of the China Engineering Academy, told the Global Times, adding that the traffic infrastructure in cities is sourced from different manufactures.

Wang said the government and enterprises should jointly lead the standardization of the intelligent traffic system as no company can independently attain this goal.

According to the national plan, China expects to build ethical norms and regulations in some areas of AI by 2020. The plan further calls for major breakthroughs in basic theory in AI research, and for achieving the status of a global leader in some AI technologies and applications by 2025. By that time, AI should become the major engine for China's industrial upgrade and economic transformation.

Lack of awareness

One of the reasons behind the high rate of traffic accidents in China is that the officials have failed to analyze accidents in a systematic way, experts said.

The rate of serious car crashes each involving over 10 people, in China was 12 times higher than that of the US in 2015, Wang Changjun, head of the research institute on traffic management at the Ministry of Public Security, said at the conference.

He said officials who deal with traffic accidents commonly outweigh the human factor in an accident since they always regard compensation and responsibility as their primary target when there is a major road accident.

Wang said officials should systemically analyze the causes of accidents, taking elements of "human," "road" and "vehicle" into consideration.

The country's national plan also brushes over the notion of traffic safety, said Cheng Shidong, a researcher from the Institute of Comprehensive Transportation of National Development and Reform Commission.

He said there is scant mention of road safety in the 13th five-year plan, which sets the goal to develop modern complex transportation system in the country.

The plan says, "The supervision and emergency response in traffic accidents shall be improved and the number of deadly traffic accidents shall be contained."

It reflects the country's development idea - eat full before you can eat well - in this particular development phase, Cheng said.


Newspaper headline: Crash lesson

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