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A brief evolution of road safety technology

Posted on 28th Jan, 2019 by Dominic Benabda

We’re at the start of a brand new year, ready to see what the next twelve months brings in new innovations and developments in the road safety and commercial vehicle technologies. As we prepare ourselves, we thought it was worth taking a quick look back through the decades at the milestones that have led us up to this point, and the world’s most influential safety inventions over the years.

1970s – 1990s


Back in the 1970s, safety technology for cars and commercial vehicles was still relatively basic. Even seatbelts had only been invented a few decades before! However, their safety potential was just starting to be fully recognised by law in countries around the world, and 1983 was the year when front seatbelts were made mandatory in the UK. 90% of British drivers complied immediately. Even today, seatbelts are commonly regarded as one of the single most influential safety features ever created.

Meanwhile, electronic safety systems were still mostly in their infancy, and manufacturers were just starting to work out how to introduce them to vehicles on an industrial scale.

Key inventions and developments:

Anti-lock braking system

Invented in 1978 by Mercedes-Benz, this allowed the driver to maintain control even when braking.

On-board cameras

These saw their first worldwide debut in the late 1970s and early 1980s, initially just during professional racing events. By the time of the 2000s, though, decades later, the technology had advanced to the point that they were more easily accessible to the mass market, and today they’re widely used by the general public. (And in fact, it was Vision Techniques who introduced the tech to the commercial vehicles market!)

2000 – 2010


Computing power and electronics were coming on in leaps and bounds throughout the 1990s, and starting to play an ever more pivotal role in our everyday lives. (You only have to look at the rise of mobile phones for an easy example!) As a result, general understanding for its applications in road safety technology had advanced greatly since the 1970s, and the first completely autonomous systems were being developed, in an effort to cut down on human error entirely.

There were legislative changes, too. As far as the law was concerned, previous legislation had put the onus almost entirely on drivers to avoid collisions. The 2000s, though, saw the move towards a more balanced emphasis on encouraging drivers and pedestrians/cyclists alike to avoid accidents. (Although even today, our attitudes are still evolving!)


Key inventions and developments:

Blind Spot Information System

In 2004, global manufacturer Volvo engineered the world’s first blind-spot warning system. The invention utilised reversing cameras and motion sensors to help give drivers greater visibility when parking or switching lanes, helping them to avoid the danger of collisions. It’s these same principles and technology which form the basis for much of the road safety technology we stock here at Vision Techniques!

Cyclist helmets became compulsory

Also in 2004, it became against the law to cycle without a traffic helmet. The move was welcomed drivers who felt that many cyclists routinely put themselves at risk by going without one, so that the outcomes of some collisions ended up being far more severe than they could have been.

Fast forward to today, and here at Vision Techniques, we’re dedicated to eliminating accidents entirely by helping both drivers and cyclists to be more aware of each other. Our range of TurnSafe products includes a Cyclist Detection System to help drivers detect oncoming cyclists, and both visual and audible alarms to help alert cyclists to when drivers are making difficult turns.

2010 – Present


Building on the foundations of previous automatic systems and steady advances in artificial intelligence, today’s road safety systems are still working towards eliminating as much risk as possible for drivers and cyclists alike. This is especially true in the case of commercial vehicles like those we serve here at Vision Techniques. Thanks to steady innovation in the field, there are more options than ever for drivers to increase their awareness of their surroundings, and make their presence and intent clear to other road users.

This technology is also increasingly being incorporated into UK law. Even though dashcams have been around for decades, for example, they’re getting increasing recognition in both civil and criminal courts, helping road users better protect themselves both physically and legally. It’s possible that other sorts of road technology will see similar legislative developments in future. For now though, most road users seem to be simply content with the idea that these devices can do their jobs better than ever before.


Key inventions and developments:

Invention of pedestrian detection system

In 2011, Volvo released another game-changer for the private car market; a system that combined radar and cameras to detect when pedestrians were in the path of the vehicle. When it detected them, the system would apply auto-braking technology to stop the car automatically.

Here at Vision Techniques, it’s exactly the same sort of technology operates VT Banksman, our own reversing radar system. While most construction sites and similar environments have dedicated human banksmen to direct commercial vehicles, if either the driver or banksman becomes distracted, it can have disastrous consequences. You can click here to see a video of how our system avoids that using auto-braking technology.

The rise of dashcams

Over 30 years after they were first developed, in 2015 insurers began accepting dashcam and other vehicle camera footage as evidence when settling claims. As a result, use of vehicle cameras has skyrocketed by almost 300% in the past several years, according to research by Accident Exchange. They’re also proving to be an effective measure against scams that have been around for years, such as crash-for-cash schemes.

Just a few months ago, in November 2018, police launched Operation Snap, a video dashcam portal, to assist them in using dashcam footage to prosecute criminals and dangerous drivers. It’s probably not surprising, therefore, that researchers are expecting to see another rise in their use.

As we touched on above, it was our experts here at Vision Techniques who actually introduced them to the commercial vehicle market, and today we maintain a wide range of vehicle cameras and DVR recording solutions, designed to protect you and your fleet in case of litigation by proving liability.

What does the future hold?

While we obviously can’t speak for the motor industry as a whole, certainly here at Vision Techniques we’re determined to continue innovating with new products and safety solutions, making UK roads and commercial premises safer and easier to navigate. You can browse our road safety products right here, or give our friendly sales team a call on 08452 873 160. We’re here to help!