Vision Zero
© Continental AG

What has to happen so that nothing happens?

Things would be much safer if we all just walked. Serious accidents don’t usually result from people moving no faster than their feet can carry them. At speeds of more than 30 km/h, the risk of injury increases dramatically – at least when we don’t have a seat belt or an airbag. But people like to drive cars. A lot. In the course of a lifetime, a car driver in an industrialized nation spends an average of 23,000 hours, or around 2.5 years, behind the wheel. As the Continental Mobility Study 2015 confirmed, driving a car is more than a means to an end. Driving is emotion. Around the globe, people love their cars. And the growing number of vehicles worldwide is proof of their passion. The resultant growing volumes of road traffic present a major societal challenge – for lawmakers, traffic planners, and the automobile industry.

Every six seconds, somewhere in the world someone is killed or injured in a road accident

While the number of people who die in road accidents is steadily decreasing in industrialized nations, the numbers in emerging and developing countries remain consistently high. In Europe, for instance, the number of road traffic fatalities sank to a record low of 25,700 in 2014. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2013 some 1.24 million people died in road traffic accidents worldwide. And the number of seriously injured is estimated at between 20 and 50 million. Fifty percent of road traffic fatalities worldwide are “vulnerable” road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. In light of the growing amount of road traffic, WHO fears that the number of deaths could rise to as high as 1.9 million by 2020. Road accidents are already the number one cause of death for 15- to 29-year-olds. Half of all fatalities occur in Brazil, Cambodia, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Auto industry, traffic experts, and governments – the Vision Zero alliance

Although a lot has been accomplished in some parts of the world, improving road safety around the globe is still an essential goal. The name is the same worldwide: Vision Zero. The northern European nation of Sweden paved the way. The term, which comes from the field of occupational health and safety, was first applied to road safety there in the late 1990s. Vision Zero is based on the understanding that people make mistakes – human error is responsible for the majority of road accidents. So roads and vehicles have to be designed to compensate for these mistakes. An alliance of societal, economic, and political actors has now been working for almost 20 years to make Vision Zero the reality.

Automated driving: Continental shoulders responsibility

Vision Zero is firmly anchored in the Continental corporate strategy. Safe driving, accident prevention, and protection of drivers and passengers in collisions are all focal points in vehicle development. Every day, engineers are working to bring Vision Zero one step closer to fruition. In addition, Continental supports numerous safety initiatives – including the Global NCAP "Stop the Crash" campaign . “We are aiming for zero road traffic fatalities. It is no longer a utopian vision. This goal is within our reach – because there will be cars which prevent crashes,” says Continental Chairman Dr. Elmar Degenhart.

When people make mistakes – intelligent technology saves lives

Lane departure warning and emergency braking systems, eHorizon, and networked safety functions – advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like these are key technologies which significantly improve road safety. In Germany, the vehicle experts at technical inspectorate Dekra are calling for increased market adoption of ADAS – a demand that aligns well with the Continental corporate strategy. "Human error plays a role in 95 percent of all crashes; indeed, in 76 percent of road accidents it is the sole cause. Assisted driving – and, looking ahead, automated driving – will significantly cut the number of road traffic fatalities and bring us much closer to achieving Vision Zero. Because electronics don’t panic, not even for a split second. They are always alert and their reactions are spot on.”

© Continental AG

SensePlanAct – a further step towards accident-free driving

In May 2015, Chassis & Safety launched "SensePlanAct" , its global Vision Zero communications campaign. Sense, process, and then act on information – that is how the human brain works, and it is reflected in the products. The “eye” symbolizes products which are responsible for perceiving (Sense) what is happening on the road, such as pedestrian protection systems, wheel speed sensors, cameras, and radar sensors. The “brain” stands for the analysis of possible actions (Plan) performed by the control units. And “foot and pedal” stand for all products that perform a specific task (Act) in controlling the vehicle, such as fixed caliper brakes or electrohydraulic brakes. SensePlanAct aims to take this three-step process into account in the design and development of products. After all, networking different components at an early stage to form integrated systems is the foundation upon which automated driving is built – making it a key requirement for achieving Vision Zero.

Safety should not be the privilege of the wealthy – Vision Zero for everyone

One basic tenet of Vision Zero is that safety is not the privilege of the few. After all, the life of a person in Latin America is no less valuable than the life of a person in Europe, Japan, or the USA. Safety technologies are already available today for almost every car. And accident-preventing functions are becoming more widespread thanks to tougher laws and the stricter safety criteria required to receive a five-star rating from leading vehicle performance assessment organizations. For example, starting in 2016 it will only be possible to achieve the top score under the Euro NCAP rules if the vehicle has emergency brake assistance to protect pedestrians. Continental is making an active contribution to “safety for everyone” with features such as scalable safety functions.

“We are making safety technologies more cost-effective so they can increasingly be used in all markets and classes of vehicle. Safety systems are not the prerogative of premium models,” adds Dr. Ralf Cramer, Member of the Executive Board and Head of Continental China.


A broad-based alliance for Vision Zero

  • The "Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020" was proclaimed by the United Nations. The goal is to save five million lives by 2020, above all through better accident prevention in low-income countries where 90 percent of all road accidents occur.
  • The aim of the European Road Safety Charter launched in 2004 is to raise awareness of the topic of road safety and encourage the member states to commit to Vision Zero. The concrete target is to halve the number of road traffic fatalities by 2020. Continental became a signatory to the Charter in 2007.
  • Global NCAP  (New Car Assessment Programme) was founded in London (England) in 2011. This independent organization is focused on motor vehicle safety, particularly in the rapidly motorizing countries in Asia and Latin America. In 2015, Continental became a partner to the Global NCAP campaign "Stop the Crash". Global NCAP is the umbrella organization for the national NCAP associations. They lay down the standards for the prestigious NCAP 5-star award.
  • UR:BAN : 31 partners from the automobile and supplier industries, including Continental, and from the electronics, communications, and software sectors, as well as universities, research institutes, and cities have joined together in the cooperative project UR:BAN to develop advanced driver assistance and traffic management systems for urban areas.
  • The German Road Safety Council (DVR) was founded in 1969. Since 2007 the experts here have based their efforts on Vision Zero. Among other things, Continental is a partner in the DVR Tire Quality initiative.

Products from Continental: assistance systems save lives


Emergency Brake Assist : prevents 30 percent of all accidents and 70 percent of all frontal collisions

Lane Keeping Assist : being expanded into "Road Departure Protection"

Electronic Stability Control /ESC : mandatory since 2011

Augmented Reality Head-up-Display : shows all relevant information in the driver’s line of sight, integrates augmented reality content, ready for series production in 2017

eHorizon : software that uses navigation data to control vehicle systems and for a digital route preview

Pedestrian Protection System : pressure sensors in the front bumper identify collisions with pedestrians and activate safety systems in the bodywork

Rear Cross Traffic Alert : short-range radar sensors identify danger of collision

Adaptive Cruise Control : maintains set speed and distance to the vehicle in front

Blind-Spot-Detection : sensors monitor traffic and trigger an alarm if the driver starts to pull out when there is no room

Intelligent Headlamp Control : reliably and automatically switches driving lights from low beam to high beam, thereby making driving less tiring and creating less glare for oncoming traffic

Roadworks Assistant (M2XPro® ): Radar and camera sensors ensure lane-keeping in narrow lanes through roadworks

eCall : telematics unit that sends out an emergency call in the event of an accident

Electro-hydraulic brake system MK C1 : builds up brake pressure fast, provides the increased pressure requirements for accident prevention and pedestrian protection. Background: 39 percent of all drivers and 26 percent of truck drivers do not hit the brakes at all in the lead-up to a collision, while 40 percent fail to brake in time and sharply enough.