Whether in a conversation, a dialogue or a discussion, we always seem to flounder when it comes to talking about the personal mobility of the future, no matter how we choose to communicate at our sports club or on our regular table at the local pub. We only have to mention the topic for at least one of the big buzzwords – including autonomous driving, future mobility, electric vehicles or IoT (the Internet of Things) – to come up. All of these terms are used to describe the wider responsibilities of improving road safety and enhancing environmental protection.
The issue of autonomous driving arouses particular interest and now enjoys a high level of acceptance in society. The only areas where self-driving vehicles are considerably less well-received are safety and the potential loss of control. Yet this is precisely where the general inspection – that is, having your vehicle checked regularly by TÜV Rheinland’s experts, for example – can bridge the gap.
The general inspection as an important element of road safety
The general inspection has been a crucial factor in maintaining a high level of road safety since 1951. Although mobility is becoming increasingly digitalised, it is still vital for humans to carry out this long-established inspection. If, for example, the intended status of the vehicle’s system has been incorrectly calibrated or all the parameters change simultaneously, the car’s self-monitoring will also no longer work properly. If a modern windscreen with a camera system is exchanged because of a “small” stone chipping and ends up fixed just 1° out of position, this can result in significant deviations when measuring distances. Safety-related systems such as the lane departure assistant, emergency brake assistant, etc., would then receive incorrect information, with potentially serious consequences.
Regular inspections by human inspectors are vital for detecting and remedying this and other potential sources of errors. TÜV Rheinland’s inspectors can use expertise accumulated over many years to reduce drivers’ concerns or even allay them altogether. The automotive industry should not be solely responsible for reviewing the long-term security and functionality of their systems. There must be an independent body that inspects vehicles at regular intervals, unfettered by economic interests in the system’s software and hardware. After all, the frequency of regular inspections as prescribed by the manufacturer falls when a vehicle passes from one owner to the next.
Changing the way drivers think
Increased acceptance of the general inspection among the population is still required. It would be great if society began to think of such inspections as a worthwhile use of time to ensure safety rather than a tedious obligation. Only by maintaining and expanding our established vehicle inspection system can we continue to uphold our high and much-treasured safety standards. Cars have become part and parcel of everyday life in our society – but just because they are everywhere does not mean they have become less dangerous. Force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration, so when you consider that our cars are getting heavier and faster all the time, it is all too easy to imagine the consequences if they collide with a human body.
This is why we need to place greater emphasis on the status quo of keeping our vehicles safe. Design, comfort and performance improvements are all well and good, but safety should come first. Every defect the experts discover reduces the risks for drivers and other road users, which means that not passing the general inspection is by no means a failure. Let’s be honest: many of us really enjoy driving. To keep it that way in the future, our three cornerstones – man, technology and the environment – need to mesh together perfectly.