New ECE Regulation on Blind Spot Information Systems Published
Due to the significant improvements that have been made in vehicle safety over the past few decades, the number of people killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents has generally decreased over that same period. However, as many of these vehicle safety improvements have focussed on protecting the vehicle occupants, the reductions in the fatality rates for pedestrians and cyclists, generically referred to as vulnerable road users, have not matched this overall pattern.
More recently introduced legal requirements on pedestrian protection have begun to address this situation, but vulnerable road users are still considered to be over represented in the accident statistics. Overall, in Europe, vulnerable road users account for 30% of all road traffic fatalities, but account for almost 43% of fatalities in urban areas.
One vulnerable road user accident scenario which has been highlighted in recent years relates to the interaction between heavy trucks and cyclists in urban situations, especially where the truck is turning into a junction whilst a cyclist is attempting to pass alongside it. Despite the various mirrors which must be legally fitted to heavy trucks, blind spots still exist and it is difficult for heavy truck drivers to remain fully aware of vulnerable road users, especially cyclists, in close proximity to their vehicle.
This accident scenario was recognised by the European Commission back in 2016 when they were initially reviewing potential safety improvements for inclusion into their new General Safety Regulation (now published as (EU) 2019/2144). Around that same time, within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE), the UN ECE Working Party responsible for general safety, the Working Party on General Safety Provisions (GRSG), were considering whether amendments to ECE Regulation No. 46 on devices for indirect vision could be introduced to address this situation. They decided that the best approach would be to create a completely new ECE Regulation on close proximity and obstacle detection systems and they set up a specific Informal Working Group to draft this new Regulation.
The draft Regulation developed by this Informal Working Group, titled blind spot information systems for the detection of bicycles, was adopted by GRSG in October 2018 for submission to the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29). At their March 2019 session, WP.29 formally adopted the proposal as new ECE Regulation No. 151 and the official version of this new Regulation was published on January 13, 2020.
The new Regulation applies to N2 category vehicles with a GVW exceeding 8,000kg and to all N3 category vehicles. It requires the fitment of a blind spot information system which must operate when the vehicle is stationary and up to vehicle speeds of 30km/h. The system must inform the driver via an optical signal whenever bicycles are in close proximity to the vehicle and must provide an additional warning signal to the driver when a potential collision with a bicycle is detected. This warning signal may be either optical, acoustic, haptic or any combination these.
The Regulation also specifies the bicycle speed range and proximity distance range over which the system must detect bicycles, restrictions on when the system can be deactivated and requirements on the warnings to be given to the driver in the case of a failure within the system. Also included within the Regulation are specific test procedures to verify the performance of the system.