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European General Road Safety Regulation

Massimo Brunamonti

The regulatory framework addresses driver assistance systems and components and covers for the first time not only the safety of vehicle occupants but also pedestrians and cyclists
The world's most advanced regulatory framework for vehicle safety, at least according to some, was published in the Official Journal of the EU on December 16, 2019. We are talking about Regulation 2019/2144, known as the General Safety Regulation (GSR), which deals with driver assistance systems and components designed and manufactured for all motor vehicles in categories M, N and O. The Regulation addresses for the first time not only the safety of vehicle occupants, but also vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, and globally this is certainly an innovative concept, adopted by the EU as part of its "Vision Zero" program, aimed at drastically reducing road victims.

The GSR Regulation requires that all motor vehicles be equipped, in addition to tire pressure monitoring systems, with a minimum set of safety systems such as: intelligent speed adaptation; Can Bus alcolock system interface; driver inattentiveness and fatigue warning; emergency stop warning; reversing detection; event data recorder. For light passenger and light commercial vehicles in categories M1 and N1 the requirement for advanced emergency braking and lane keeping assist systems is also included. Both must be capable of detecting, first, obstacles and vehicles moving in front of the vehicle and, at a second stage, extend their detection capability to include pedestrians and cyclists in front of the vehicle.

Buses and lorries in categories M2, M3, N2 and N3 shall also be equipped with lane departure warning systems, emergency braking systems as well as advanced pedestrian and cyclist presence detection systems, to issue warning signals or to avoid collisions with them. Hydrogen vehicles have not been forgotten either, although not very fashionable at the moment. In fact, the regulation provides for their compliance with the technical safety requirements of the hydrogen system to be verified at the time of type-approval. This seems far-sighted if electric mobility should fall short of expectations.
A separate chapter of the Regulation deals with semi-autonomous and autonomously driven vehicles with a list of systems designed to replace the driver in controlling the vehicle, real-time information systems on the condition of a moving vehicle and the surrounding area, driver monitoring systems, devices to provide information on the safety of other road users and finally event data recorders for automated vehicles, not to mention vehicle-to-vehicle communication standards for data exchange, e.g. when commercial vehicles move as a platoon.  The Regulation applies from July 6, 2022, except for a limited number of cases with immediate effect; the Commission is also empowered to adopt delegated acts for type-approval and technical verification procedures.

The consequences of all this for the aftermarket will be quite significant and the industry is already seeing the first concrete signs of this: body repair shops are already recording a marked decrease in small body repairs thanks to park assist systems and the future is likely to reinforce this trend. On the other hand, even small repairs will require a more specialised approach and calibration work at higher costs and greater added value. And what about roadworthiness tests? If the purpose of these tests is to check the performance of a vehicle in terms of pollution and safety, it is inevitable that, sooner or later, these systems too will be tested for conformity. Whether assisted or autonomous, the efficiency of the whole system has to be taken into account by the "autopilot" in order to efficiently manage braking, steering or acceleration.

And it won't be long before all this happens. If 2022 is to be considered a pivotal year, also in view of the fact that many vehicles have already been equipped with such systems for some time now, it is easy to predict that as early as 2025-2026 the consequences of this transformation will be evident on a large scale. The vehicle-repair industry will have had to adapt and we sincerely also hope that MOT tests will have developed the necessary upgrading, including retrofitting systems and devices that will be increasingly available on the market. At the same time, motorist will by then have become accustomed to assisted or autonomous driving and will no longer be willing to do without it. This "transformation", soon to be here, is what everyone is talking about; some are concerned about it but many have already perceived great future opportunities.

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