Technion, Or Yarok open road safety research center

The center, located in Haifa, is one in a series of programs aimed at improving road safety in Israel.

shmuel aboav 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy )
shmuel aboav 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Imagine that you're driving in your car when your vehicle suddenly informs you that you are too tired to drive and advises you to take action. Without noticing, the heavy fatigue has already caused you to begin swerving toward the edge of the road and half of your car has entered a roadside ditch. Your car's wheels automatically respond by extending downward to make up for the change in ground height. As you fly past the red traffic light you failed to notice, the light immediately stops traffic from other directions to avoid a collision. These technologies may sound like they came out of a Knight Rider episode, but a new road safety institute to be launched at the Israel Institute of Technology (the Technion) in Haifa on Tuesday hopes to make them a part of the everyday Israeli driving experience. The Ran Naor Road Safety Research Institute, a joint initiative by the Technion and the Or Yarok (Green Light) road safety association, will be inaugurated by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. Part of its mission will be to research what it says are the "core issues" of road safety in Israel: pedestrians and cyclists, single-lane roads, and minorities and the Orthodox who suffer from a higher rate of traffic accidents, according to Prof. Doron Balasha, who will head the institute. "Israel has its own unique problems of road safety," he told The Jerusalem Post Monday. "This center will combine experts from various fields and attempt to deal with these issues." "Every accident is a result of system failure," Balasha said. "To get over that failure, we have to investigate the whole system." Another group of researchers at the institute will look into "what the future holds, in terms of technologies, and creating an intelligent transportation infrastructure," he said. The center has been made possible thanks to a major donation from Or Yarok chairman Avi Naor, whose son was killed in a road accident. Tackling Israel's problematic driving culture is a long-term endeavor, Balasha said, but in the meantime, faster technological solutions could be obtained. "With human beings, it takes years to change behavior norms," he said. "But if we can compensate for the mistakes of drivers with technology and with new safety measures, we can reach the same goal." According to Or Yarok CEO Shmuel Aboav, new technologies to reduce fatalities on the roads had to be integrated into both vehicles and roads. "A vehicle filled with safety accessories can save lives," he told the Post Monday. "And a vehicle lacking them can be a death trap. "The same is true of the road, which could feature smart technology in the future, such as traffic lights that react to situations, or tar that increases traction with wheels to avoid sliding. A road system can also absorb energy during an accident." The new institute was one of a series of programs aimed at improving road safety in Israel, Aboav said. "A second center will be set up this year at Ben-Gurion University, and will examine the human factor," he said. "There is currently a shortage of professionals who have expertise in this issue, and the new institute will provide scholarships to researchers who work in the area. We're inviting people to enter this world." Aboav said the Technion was the right place to host the center because it is filled with "professional and qualified researchers who can… come up with a new doctrine that will lead the way on how public administration can introduce durable road safety." "These programs have succeeded in many places around the world and have significantly reduced the number of accidents and casualties," he said. "What has been accomplished elsewhere can certainly also be done here as a result of scientific research." Thirty-five Israelis have been killed in traffic accidents this month, the National Road Safety Authority reported. Since Israel's independence, 29,719 people have been killed on the nation's roads.