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Efficiency, safety and environmental care go hand-in-hand

The driver is the single most important actor when it comes to road safety. He or she can make the right or wrong decision at a crucial instant and save or ruin the situation. Much the same also applies for fuel economy and the impact on the environment for a transport task. The three factors therefore interact - and pull in the same direction.

The driver of a commercial vehicle has a highly demanding job. Many factors compete for his or her attention or distraction. As manufacturers, we need to relieve the driver of as many as possible of these worries. If the driver feels relaxed and in command, he or she will be safer on the road.

So what can the manufacturer do to make the driver reasonably relaxed, despite all the stress? In fact, one of Scania's R&D goals contributes strongly here - driver appeal. Even a heavy commercial vehicle should be nice to drive, although it's a day-to-day workplace. To Scania, this is not a contradiction - it is a requirement.

But most important is the way a vehicle goes, steers and stops. Good performance makes driving relaxed. Modern automated gearchanging systems enable the driver to concentrate on the traffic, while emissions and fuel consumption are minimised without the driver having to think about it.

Driving smoothly and economically not only gives better operating economy, fewer repairs and breakdowns, it also reduces environmental impact and increases safety.

Efficiency and safety also go hand-in-hand. More efficient road transport means fewer trucks on the road for a certain transport task and this in itself benefits safety. Here electronics will produce a revolution in the years to come, fully integrating trucks and buses into the operator's communication and logistics system.

In the world of electronics, only the imagination sets the limit. This is what will happen in the not-too-distant future. We do have excellent antilock brakes, we will get stability control like on luxury cars, and adaptive cruise control. We are already braking by wire with electronic brake systems, why not steer by wire as well. Surely, we can help the driver keep the vehicle in lane and help him by steering or braking out of trouble. But there will be much more, which we cannot even imagine today.

[Kaj Holmelius, Senior Vice President Research and Truck Development at the Scania Road Safety Seminar in Brussels 29 September 1999.]