Report numberRA-2007-106
TitleTechnical Inspection and New Safety Technologies
SubtitleEvaluation of Efficiency of Current Inspection Tests for New Technologies
AuthorsStefan Smets
Tobias Denys
Published byPolicy Research Centre for Traffic Safety 2002-2006
Number of pages45
Document languageDutch
Partner(s)Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek
Work packageOther: Vehicle technology

The Belgian government enforces requirements on motor vehicles for the interest of traffic safety. In this framework she has to comply with the legislation of the European Union. Within the motor vehicle requirements, a distinction is made between admission requirements, permanent requirements and application requirements. In addition to safety, these requirements refer to noise, emissions, mass, dimensions and license plates. Most of these requirements are applicable to all discerned types of motor vehicles (passenger cars, buses, delivery vans and trucks), although they can differ for the different types of motor vehicles.


The motor vehicles are inspected according to specified tests at European level to verify the compliance with the requirements of the EU-directives. After this type-inspection, the motor vehicles are allowed on the public roads. Consequently, the technical state of the motor vehicles is verified periodically via the technical inspection at national level. This inspection differs for the various type of motor vehicles, with regard to the period at which the vehicle is inspected for the first time, the frequency of the inspections and the content of the inspection. Next to the periodical inspections, there are also non-periodical inspections which take place under specific circumstances. These inspections have to be carried out by certified institutes.


Lately, many new primary and secondary safety technologies are being developed. Primary technologies concern the systems to prevent accidents; secondary technologies relate to the provisions to reduce the consequences of accidents.


Neither in the statutory requirements, nor in EuroNCAP (a collision test program organized by several consumer organizations, European governments and testing agencies; subsidized by the EU), requirements are recorded relating to the condition of these “new” safety technologies like airbags, an electronic braking system (EBS) and electronic stability control (ESC). These technical high-grade provisions are indeed applied on a voluntary basis, but they are relevant to the safety. Furthermore, the technical inspection can only indicate the technical condition of the motor vehicle at a given moment and several safety related properties of the motor vehicles would be better monitored continuously, e.g. lighting, tire pressure and possible wear of the brakes.


Currently these “new” safety technologies are mainly developed by the original equipment manufactures, OEMs, themselves. As a result these systems are very vehicle specific. Due to the increasing importance of electronics in the safety systems, they can be controlled by a diagnosis system cf. the on-board diagnosis (OBD) system. Due to the fact that guidelines are formulated for OBD systems concerning standardization of universal system fault codes, it is possible to control the safety systems of all models of all brands electronically with one specific system. However, this control is limited to notifying an error, without knowledge of the scale and impact of the error. As a consequence, unless there will be a European/international legislation regarding complete standardization of multiplexing and OBD systems, universal diagnosis systems will only be useful to a smaller extend. As a result, if the inspection of “new” safety technologies becomes mandatory, these inspections can only be carried out by maintenance institutions, i.e. regular service stations, of the brand itself.


In the case of a clear legislation regarding standardization of multiplexing and OBD systems, universal diagnosis systems can be used for the inspection of – most – “new” safety technologies. These inspections can therefore be carried out by regular service stations as well as by officially recognized inspection institutes. By conducting the inspection by officially recognized inspection institutes, the government retains control. Additionally, these institutes are independent and impartial. If the inspections are carried out by regular service stations, the most suited diagnosis system is obviously available. Additional advantage for the vehicle owners is that possible failures can be immediately taken care of. Disadvantages are limited control of the government on the quality of the process and the involvement of the service stations in possible consequences of the technical inspection.


However, it is important to take into account that the Belgian government has to comply with the legislation of the European Union with respect to requirements of motor vehicles. Additionally, these European directives are compromises between many parties and are not only directed at ameliorating the traffic safety, but also at eliminating trade barriers. However, the member states can formulate the measures which they believe are necessary to demonstrate that the vehicle successfully passed a technical control which at least complies with the concerning directive.


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The Policy Research Centre for Traffic Safety carries out policy relevant scientific research under the authority of the Flemish Government. The Centre is the result of a

cooperation between Hasselt University, KU Leuven and VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research.


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