UN Rolls Out New Rules for Road Safety: Focus on Pedal Errors and EV Brakes

by | Jun 27, 2024

In a landmark initiative aimed at enhancing road safety and energy efficiency, the United Nations’ Working Party on Automated/Autonomous and Connected Vehicles (GRVA) has implemented transformative regulations. These new measures, set to take effect in June 2025, target two critical areas: Acceleration Control for Pedal Error (ACPE) and advanced braking systems for electric vehicles. The timing of these regulations is particularly crucial given the global rise in automatic vehicle sales and the increasing proportion of aging populations, both of which present unique challenges in terms of road safety and energy consumption.

The phenomenon of pedal misapplication, where drivers mistakenly press the accelerator instead of the brake, has long been a significant issue, especially among older drivers. This error has been a notable cause of road accidents globally, affecting regions from Asia to Europe. Japan, in particular, has reported that older drivers are eight times more likely to commit this error compared to their younger counterparts. This alarming frequency prompted Japan to propose a draft UN regulation aimed at mitigating this risk.

“With an aging population, the number of older drivers is expected to rise, increasing the risk of pedal misapplication accidents,” notes Dr. Yuki Tanaka, a transportation safety expert. By 2050, the global population aged 65 or older is anticipated to more than double, necessitating targeted safety measures. Countries such as Japan, Germany, France, Canada, the Republic of Korea, the United States, and China already have significant portions of their populations in this age group, underscoring the urgency of the situation.

The newly adopted UN regulation for Acceleration Control for Pedal Error (ACPE) directly addresses this issue. This system will detect objects in front and rear of the vehicle and prevent sudden acceleration, thereby significantly reducing the risk of accidents caused by pedal misapplication. Notably, the regulation will apply exclusively to passenger cars with automatic transmissions, which are more frequently associated with this type of error. For example, in the UK, statistics reveal that seven out of eight pedal misapplications involve automatic vehicles. “This is a crucial step in making our roads safer for everyone, especially as more people drive automatic cars,” asserts Maria Schneider, a traffic safety advocate. The introduction of ACPE is expected to create a safer driving environment, particularly for older drivers who are more susceptible to such errors.

Parallel to these safety measures, the GRVA has also focused on advancing braking systems for electric vehicles (EVs). As the global market for EVs continues to expand, optimizing their energy consumption has become increasingly vital. Traditional hydraulic and pneumatic braking systems, although effective, are not energy-efficient for electric vehicles. The new braking technology that will soon be mandated employs stored electrical energy for both control and energy transmission, making it more suitable and efficient for EVs. “This new system is a game-changer for electric vehicles. It will not only improve energy efficiency but also enhance safety,” says Dr. Michael Liu, an automotive engineer. This innovation aligns seamlessly with the global push for cleaner, more sustainable transportation solutions.

The UNECE Working Party on Automated/Autonomous and Connected Vehicles has meticulously reviewed potential designs for this new braking system in both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. The new regulatory provisions will be integrated into UN Regulations No. 13 and No. 13-H, with enforcement slated for June 2025. Some manufacturers are already gearing up to introduce compliant braking systems by the end of that year. “This development is essential for the transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles,” adds Dr. Liu. “It aligns with the global push for cleaner, more sustainable transportation.” The World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29), a key player in this process, operates within the UNECE Inland Transport Committee. WP.29 is dedicated to continuously improving global vehicle safety and environmental performance, with the GRVA preparing draft regulations for WP.29 and meeting three times annually with around 160 experts in attendance at each session.

The adoption of these new UN regulations for ACPE and electric vehicle braking systems signifies a broader trend towards enhancing road safety and energy efficiency in an era characterized by rapid technological advancement. The correlation between aging populations and increased risk of pedal misapplication highlights the importance of targeted safety measures. Additionally, the rise in automatic vehicle sales worldwide underscores the need for specific regulations that address the unique challenges these vehicles present.

The introduction of more energy-efficient braking systems for EVs is particularly timely, given the growing market share of electric vehicles. In 2024, electric car sales are expected to reach 45% of the market share in China, 25% in Europe, and 11% in the United States. This new braking technology not only aligns with sustainability goals aimed at reducing fossil fuel dependency but also addresses the practical challenges of energy consumption in EVs.

Looking ahead, the successful implementation of these regulations could pave the way for further advancements in vehicle safety and efficiency. As the number of older drivers continues to rise, additional safety features tailored to this demographic may become necessary. Innovations such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and automated driving systems (ADS) could play crucial roles in mitigating risks associated with aging drivers. The ongoing evolution of braking systems for electric vehicles could also lead to new standards and technologies that further enhance energy efficiency and safety. As more manufacturers adopt these advanced systems, we may see a ripple effect, encouraging broader adoption of electric vehicles and accelerating the transition to a more sustainable transportation ecosystem.

“The future of transportation is evolving rapidly,” says Dr. Tanaka. “With continued innovation and stringent regulations, we can look forward to safer, more efficient roads for everyone.” The UN’s new regulations for ACPE and electric vehicle braking systems are not merely reactive measures but proactive steps towards a safer and more energy-efficient future. As the world grapples with the dual challenges of an aging population and the shift towards electric vehicles, these regulations represent a significant stride towards creating a safer and more sustainable transportation landscape.