I’m Iain Knight, Founder and Director of Apollo Vehicle Safety Limited. I’ve been involved in vehicle safety research for longer than I care to remember (26 years at the last count!). Most of my formative years were spent at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), followed by a spell with Thatcham Research before starting Apollo in 2014. During that time, I covered a huge range of technical subjects across all vehicle types from mainstream cars to oversized road trains, at one extreme, and micro-mobility at the other with stops including agricultural vehicles and other off-road machinery. However, through all that diversity, two broad themes have formed the majority of my work: collision avoidance technology and commercial vehicles (trucks and buses).
Back in 1995, a focus on collision avoidance meant that I was studying fundamental brake compatibility issues on articulated vehicles. However, this evolved through to anti-lock braking systems (ABS), electronic stability controls (ESC), brake assist systems (BAS), and Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) before opening out to the wider world of ADAS and increasingly the higher levels of automated driving. In the mid to late 2000's, I led the TRL team whose research informed the European Commission’s decisions to mandate BAS on passenger cars and AEB and LDW on trucks and buses that don’t carry standing passengers. I also contributed to the development of technical requirements. Later, as crash & safety manager at Thatcham Research, a prominent member of Euro NCAP, I was involved in many AEB car-to-car tests and led the Thatcham contribution to developing the Euro NCAP AEB pedestrian test protocol. Throughout my work, success has been enabled by direct involvement in collision investigation, reconstruction, and analysis of crash databases. This has provided crucial understanding of what safety systems need to achieve, grounded in the real world, not the lab or the regulatory committee meeting.
When I started Apollo safety as a one-man band, I took the view I would take any work that came my way if the CV qualified me to do it and it seems to have paid off. We have undertaken work on basic braking and handling testing of ‘special purpose’ vehicles to assessing the safety requirements for SAE level 4 driverless pods. In 2018, the company doubled in size when I was joined by a former TRL colleague Martin Dodd, and despite the global pandemic we continue to thrive! While we still take the same diverse approach, our work is increasingly focussed on a variety of driver-assist and automation technology. Our current portfolio includes partnering with TRL on the HelmUK project running a live motorway trial of HGV platooning systems, as well as road trials of driver inattention monitors and collision warning systems. We have also been working with Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP in extending their rating system to commercial vehicles, seen in their recent launches on vans but not stopping at just the small stuff.
We are leading work for Transport for London on the potential for AEB Pedestrian to be fitted to city buses capable of carrying unrestrained and/or standing passengers. This carries the unique risk that false-positive brake applications could cause significant injury to standing or unrestrained bus passengers. Having developed a track test protocol and designed a model to predict the trade-off between true positive benefits and false-positive risks we are currently involved in a project to validate that model using more than one million miles of real braking data captured in service.
The future is going to be an exciting time in transport generally and we are looking forward to it at Apollo. Decarbonisation, new mobility modes, and automation all need to be developed in their own right, but perhaps even more importantly, need to integrate and work together safely and sustainably. There is an enormous amount of work to do. These are challenges that all in the sector face. Our aim at Apollo is to continue in our role, forming a bridge between industry, innovators, policymakers, and regulators to try to ensure public and private policy decisions are as well informed as they can be and implemented effectively and efficiently. A particular interest of ours is to ensure that due consideration is extended to trucks, buses, off-road, and other niche commercial vehicles as well as the usual focus on passenger cars and personal mobility.
Euro NCAP van initiative:
Published works e.g., AEB for buses: