LIVONIA, MI --- According to TRW Automotive Holdings Corp., the auto industry is poised to make significant progress in making the world's roads safer in the coming decade, despite challenges arising from explosive growth in Asian markets and a heightened focus on fuel efficiency. 

"As we start a new decade, we feel optimistic about our ability to work together with industry groups, national governments and our customers to make a difference in road safety," said Peter Lake, executive vice president of sales and business development for TRW Automotive. "Over recent years we have seen an increase in safety and environmentally led regulation being introduced in emerging and mature markets alike. This balance of market forces and government leadership looks set to continue driving developments in technology, which should ultimately lead to safer roads." 

According to World Health Organization statistics, approximately 1.3 million people die each year on the world's roads. The focus from the industry has made a significant difference in the past decade. Since the turn of the millennium, annual fatalities have been reduced by more than 28 percent in Europe, and by approximately 10 percent in the U.S. 

But everyone agrees there is still more to be done. The challenges that come with tremendous growth in emerging markets require a different set of objectives to tackle road safety. In the year 2000, some 2 million vehicles were produced in China. But by the end of the decade, annual production was running at 12 million units. 

"The automotive landscape is so very different from 10 years ago," Lake noted. "We've not only seen some serious new contenders arrive on the world stage in the form of the BRIC markets, but we've also been through an unprecedented period of crisis. And as we look forward, the focus in established markets has to be about making advanced safety solutions affordable across the range of platforms -- including for the increasing proportion of fuel-efficient smaller or hybrid/electric vehicles. And for emerging markets we need to return to the fundamentals of passive safety; seek to deliver affordable, more basic active systems; and work together with industry bodies and governments to educate drivers and other road users as road traffic volumes increase at a significant pace." 

TRW has a broad portfolio of active technologies, occupant safety and advanced driver assist systems. According to the company, milestones for the past decade include: 

  • First-to-market launch of Electric Park Brake with Fiat in 2002 and Audi in 2004.
  • First integrated active/passive safety system with the Active Control Retractor that was part of Mercedes' presafe system launched in 2002.
  • TRW's first column drive Electrically Powered Steering system was launched on the Nissan Micra and Fiat Stilo in 2002.
  • TRW launched its radar-based Adaptive Cruise Control system on the Volkswagen Phaeton in 2003.
  • Launch of regenerative braking system, Slip Control Boost, for the GM Tahoe two-mode hybrid system in 2008.
  • Launch of a video-based Lane Departure Warning system on the Lancia Delta in 2008. 

"Our engineers across the globe are working to develop affordable solutions -- whether that's delivering a low-cost radar collision warning system for the family car market in the U.S. or Europe, providing airbags for breakthrough low-cost models in India or China or helping to develop smaller, lighter vehicles," Lake said. 

Lake also stressed that fuel-efficient vehicles needn't sacrifice safety. 

"The advances in vehicle structures and in active technologies to prevent accidents -- and passive systems to mitigate against them -- mean that smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles should be a safe option," Lake explained. "TRW has evaluated its portfolio and is positioned to support the move to hybrid and full electric vehicles. We believe strongly that there is no need to compromise safety for fuel efficiency."