SAFER - fifteen years in the service of road safety research
For fifteen years, SAFER has now conducted borderless research to save lives in traffic by joining forces with the Swedish automotive industry, academia and societal actors. Thousands of researchers have been active in the research and competence centre over the years and during the period close to 400 projects have been carried out, over 1000 publications have been published and 64 doctors have been examined in SAFER's unique collaboration environment. Several prestigious award-winning prizes have also been granted to SAFER and its researchers over the years.
“I can only feel joy and pride when we celebrate our fifteenth anniversary with our partners today”, says Magnus Granström, SAFER's director.
In 2006, 20 partners from industry, academia and public organisations that shared a common view on the importance of traffic safety signed an agreement, which included a 10-year framework. Additional partners have been attracted over time and currently SAFER consists of 44 partners. SAFER has its roots in decades of cooperation between Chalmers and several of the industrial partners. The successful collaboration on neck injury research, gave confidence in the potential of a joint research centre for vehicle and traffic safety.
SAFER is today, 15 years later, a world leader in several research areas. A significant example is SAFER’s data collection and analysis of naturalistic driving studies and our designated hub for European data collection. Over the years, the unique databases have contributed to several prestigious international assignments and projects.
Child safety is another area in which SAFER became an initial leader. “Småfolk” was one of the early projects within SAFER. It was created, in line with SAFER's ambitions, to elaborate research by joining efforts. This project was the starting point of SAFER’s child safety and rear seat safety research that quickly reached international recognition. This first project was followed by several more and expanded the area contributing to setting the agenda for child occupant protection and driving the research border of real-world passenger protection. Numerous SAFER publications and presentations, resulted from these projects, have contributed to international regulations and standards.
The International Conference on Driver Distraction and Inattention is the primary international event on this topic, created by and bi-annually arranged by SAFER. The conference is arranged for the eighth time in 2022, this time in Gothenburg. The conference is designed to bring participants from academia, industry and government up-to-date on the developments and trends in the field of inattention and distraction in driving and to participate in the most relevant research dialogue together with experts from all around the world. SAFER has also arranged and co-hosted several other international conferences over the years, such as the world's largest road safety conference, ESV, in June 2015.
Another of SAFER's great successes over the years is the cluster of Human Body Model (HBM) projects. They have resulted in the two families of HBM’s; SAFER-HBM and VIVA+. These two HBM-families put SAFER on the world map in the field of occupant crash simulation. They are the result of a long and firm commitment from SAFER partners to make a long-term investment and build a unique community with strong competence and a well-developed network. At the early stages of SAFER a vision was established to develop a model that was “tunable and scalable, with omni-directional biofidelity and injury prediction capabilities for whole sequence, i.e. both low-g and high-g events”. Fifteen years ago, this was utopia that now is reality. This area is not only a role model for excellent and borderline research, it is also a role model for how the collaboration within the SAFER community can achieve more than just single project execution.
SAFER’s Active-HBM activities started with an exploratory and relatively high-risk project, taking on a significant computational challenge. It grew to a successful and important research area, not only for SAFER, but also contributing to the global evolution. The project pioneered an area that has grown to be one of the main topics in biomechanics and crashworthiness research today. The continuous evolution, by the strategical project portfolio over the years, and the constant referencing to “SAFER research” have substantially contributed to spread SAFER’s name as such, and to make it associated to state-of-the art research specifically. SAFER is a globally acknowledged main contact for expertise within research on Active human body modelling.
“Automation and research on how self-driving vehicles can be implemented in a safe way have been, and will continue to be, an important focus areas at SAFER”, says Magnus.
“Throughout the years we have built up important knowledge and competence, for instance in the area of safety assurance; how do we know that the self-driving vehicle behaves safely. We conduct research on how the driver and the vehicle can interact with each other and also with the surrounding environment in a safe and understandable way, and during the past years we have made significant process in this field of research”, Magnus tells.
SAFER in a larger ecosystem
SAFER is also part of a larger ecosystem and collaborates with many other centers, knowledge hubs and initiatives. Various international partners are also part of the network, read more here: About SAFER | SAFER – Vehicle and Traffic Safety Centre at Chalmers (saferresearch.com). Post-crash actions play a significant role in order to reduce overall mortality and injury severity in road traffic accidents. Many traffic accident victims could be saved if proper care and rescue was implemented in the post-crash phase. The research area Care and Rescue started in 2014 and over the years several important projects have been concluded.
“An example of an innovation originated from our Care and Rescue area is the smartphone-based invention Jalp! The innovation has been further developed and is now established under the name Detecht; a lifesaving motorcycle app that detects accidents and notifies safety contacts in your smartphone about your position”, Magnus tells.
Science outreach – the key for utilization of the research
SAFER has throughout the years been organizing a vast number of internal and external seminars, project days and conferences with the purpose of cross-fertilisation and exchange of knowledge and ideas. SAFER is acknowledged as a valuable meeting place and the various seminars are appreciated by the partners as efficient means to share knowledge and create visibility among SAFER researchers on current topics, as well as offering great opportunities for networking. SAFER has built its strong brand through visibility and through actively participating in debates, panels and seminars at various events. SAFER is now renowned to the extent that organisations frequently approach SAFER for collaboration, expert opinions, or giving talks at conferences and seminars.
SAFER’s future road safety research
“SAFER will develop and we will continue to conduct research that is relevant to the society. As the traffic system evolves, so does our research”, Magnus explains.
We see, for example, new kinds of transport, which include novel forms of mobility services and vehicles. We need to remain proactive so that new transport solutions can be implemented in a safe and sustainable way. Safety for autonomous vehicles will continue to be important to us. Safety culture is a new area that we will continue to explore, as well as research on how we can support organisations to measure and follow up their traffic safety footprint. We also believe that behavioral topics will increase even more in focus; how can we contribute so that people actually choose to move and behave in a safe way?
“It is a major step forward that road safety now is included as a separate sub-target in the Global sustainable development goals. This opens up new opportunities for us to work even more efficiently, integrated with several other sustainability goals and contribute to SAFER’s vision that all road users should travel safe in the transport system”, Magnus concludes.