AI Can Save Lives On The Roads - Business Media MAGS

Business Day Safety

AI Can Save Lives On The Roads

Technology is a game-changer, but can it be used effectively to make road travel safer? By Simon Foulds.

Advanced driver assistance systems installed into long-distance trucks are revolutionising road safety in many ways, but what safety options do they offer?

“Technology can enhance risk identification and offer the ability to provide insights that may not be traditionally available,” says Clay Colegate, business development and strategic accounts manager at DriveRisk.

Technology has advanced significantly over the past five years. But, without a solid foundation or platform to work off, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) or camera technologies can only offer a limited amount of value.

“Technology can provide comprehensive driver safety programmes: encompassing
driver behaviour, fatigue management and collision-avoidance technologies. The ability to provide drivers with real-time feedback on risky driving incidents in conjunction with audible and visual alerts could significantly reduce the likelihood of incidents and accidents occurring,” Colegate explains.

Closing the loop on behavioural risk management through a driver coaching platform provides fleet operators with the opportunity to engage with their drivers. This can enable operators to implement safety strategies that address current risks, proactively preventing repetition of collision-causing incidents.

AI and the IoT are game-changers in improving road safety, but have, says Colegate, not yet fully been utilised to their maximum potential. “Providing these insights and real-time risk identification of behaviour is only as powerful as how you interpret and apply the information. The true benefit is through engagement with service providers who can analyse the data and put it into context so that operators can improve the overall safety of their drivers and, ultimately, the general driving public.”

Self-driving vehicles – are they really safe?

Currently, SA laws essentially cater for circumstances where only humans are licenced to drive vehicles on South African roads. However, if provision was made for self-driving cars, would they be safer? Can we trust a computer to drive our car, especially if it runs the risk of being hacked?

Lucien Pierce, a partner at Phukubje Pierce Masithela Attorneys, says that with cybercrime increasing daily, the risk of hacks affecting a self-driving vehicle (SDV) network is very real.

“One piece of new, but little known, legislation is the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. This may go some way to help reduce vulnerabilities in the type of infrastructure that SDVs may rely on,” he explains. Telecommunications networks and the electricity grid would form part of this critical infrastructure.

South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act also provides legislated protection for product liability, but all those involved in the chain of producing a product may need to consider how they protect themselves in the event of SDVs experiencing catastrophic failures.

What about privacy?

“SDVs will be collecting sensitive information about their passengers: people may be travelling to hospital and wish to keep such visits private or journalists may be travelling to meet a confidential source. What happens if the SDV’s systems are compromised allowing people’s movements to be tracked or traced?

“The Protection of Personal Information Act certainly provides broad privacy protections, but may need to be enhanced to provide more specific protections or guidance to address SDVs,” says Pierce.

“We also need the Cybercrimes Bill to be passed into law as soon as possible because, as we become more dependent on communications and communications infrastructure, we need to have laws in place that make it easier to prosecute those criminals that use technology for nefarious purposes,” he explains.


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