Mazda’s Human Approach to Safety


Mazda’s Human Approach to Safety

A commitment to an accident-free automotive future brings a new era of confidence for Mazda drivers.

As cars become increasingly software-defined, old-school purchase metrics such as acceleration times, are beginning to be replaced with more considered options. Today, a combination of heightened safety measures, new car-to-driver technologies and considerate driver-first design principles take the top spots when it comes to buying a new vehicle.

Which for Mazda, poses an interesting challenge. How do you make a car as safe as possible, while still making it fun to drive? And to take things further still, as Mazda have with their proactive safety philosophy; how do you use technology to ultimately create a driver-empowered, accident-free automotive society?

Takahiro Tochioka, a programme manager for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) at Mazda’s Development Strategy Planning Department, explains that the risk-mitigation objective has a human approach. “We always put the driver first,” he says. “We offer vehicle safety technology that allows them to enjoy driving the car on their own without it getting in their way.”

Now known more officially as the Mazda Proactive Safety, this vision has been at the cornerstone of Mazda’s research and development department, having initially been introduced during the early 2010s. It’s here Mazda doubled-down on building innovative safety functions.

With a renewed focus on the car’s “hardware”, everything from the position of the driver’s seat to the field of vision were meticulously examined and, if necessary, would lead to a wider re-examination of the vehicle chassis, to heighten the vehicle’s safety performance.

Next came the second phase, this time focusing on software and technology. Already passionate about heightened safety measures, Mazda wanted to take things to the next level and started work on even more advanced features. The culmination of this was the development of i-Activsense, a cache of safety technologies — including millimeter wave radars, cameras, unintentional lane departure warnings and automatic headlight switching — designed to help the driver to be aware of possible road safety risks ahead of the car.

“We always put the driver first.”

Takahiro Tochioka

Now continuing to shoot for the self-set target of recording zero fatal accidents caused by their brand-new cars by 2040, Mazda have moved a step further with the Mazda Co-Pilot Concept. As the name suggests, this is an even more advanced safety approach that acts as if the driver is equipped with a helping hand — and “kind eyes,” as Mazda describes — of a co-pilot sitting next to them, tasked with monitoring what’s happening inside the car and the driver’s conditions.

“We’re now in the position to be able to further innovate and create something ground-breaking.”

Koichi Kojima

Koichi Kojima, also an ADAS/AD programme manager at the Integrated Control System Development Division, explains how it started. “For example in Japan, whilst the overall number of serious road accidents has been decreasing thanks to the advancement of safety technologies, those caused by the driver’s sudden illness has been on the rise,” he says. “This led us to come up with more advanced safety measures.”

With this Mazda Co-Pilot Concept, Mazda has enhanced Cruising & Driving Support (CTS) with Unresponsive Driver Support. “The car constantly monitors the state of the driver through the tiny camera installed in the onboard display. When it detects the driver’s eyes are closed or distracted, or when the driver’s hands are off the steering wheel, it gives them a warning in the form of haptic braking, or voice guidance before bringing the car to a halt. At which point it also makes an emergency call and unlocks the doors for a necessary rescue operation on behalf of the driver.”

As Kojima explains, Cruising & Driving Support (CTS) with Unresponsive Driver Support is now featured in the [all-new Mazda CX-70] and all-new Mazda CX-80. [Delete as appropriate for market]. As a testament to Mazda’s road safety R&D efforts, this advanced safety feature demanded close work with government authorities to implement it safely.

Kojima clarifies: “For this kind of technology, we had to work with relevant authorities closely to make sure that our invention is in no breach of related laws or regulations,” he says, “whilst further improving road safety for the drivers and occupants.”

This latest development in Mazda’s safety technologies is a priceless advantage, but the legacy that it leaves is the fact that Kojima and his team internally developed every single piece of technology from scratch. In other words, all the finely tuned intel accumulated throughout the development process is firmly kept within Mazda’s R&D labs.

“We have the full understanding of our own system with all the in-house intel and experience shared across the board,” says Kojima. “We’re now in the position to be able to innovate further and create something ground-breaking for the future.”

Words Shogo Hagiwara