If you drive a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, or Ram vehicle in North America, you might already have a detection system that visually alerts you to the nearness of first responders – police, ambulance, fire – who have their sirens on and have been dispatched to a situation on your route. A text warning comes up on your car’s centre screen: “CAUTION Emergency Vehicles Approaching.” Emergency Vehicle Alert System (EVAS) is in over 1.8 million Stellantis vehicles in the U.S. and Canada, having been retroactively installed in anything from the 2018 model year up, if equipped with the Uconnect 4C nav system.
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But even if you’ve used this feature, you might not know the genesis of this warning came out of an idea hatched on the Stellantis plant floor in 2021. Through the company’s Star*Up program, Stellantis employees around the world are encouraged to share their suggestions or discoveries on how to make the vehicles they produce safer or more innovative. In this case, “the feature came from a hearing-impaired Stellantis employee who nearly collided with an emergency vehicle she couldn’t hear.”
Trpko Blazevski, Stellantis’s expert on global digital innovation and digital partnerships, describes the resulting forums as something that resembles a town hall crossed with the television show Shark Tank: ideas are brought forth, and the subsequent voting allows the best ones to rise into creation. The visual warning sign on the dash is paired with HAAS, a digital alerting system with a cloud platform that brings “critical real-time connectivity to roads [to transform] emergency alerting.” HAAS was adopted by the Waze nav system in 2017, and now Stellantis is the first auto manufacturer to introduce it in its vehicles.
There’s a simple elegance in this solution. You’ve doubtless witnessed drivers trundling along, oblivious to approaching emergency vehicles, with their inattention drawn from one of a number of causes: music being blasted too loudly; the driver being engrossed in a phone call; even kids arguing in the back seat. With today’s excellent vehicular insulation ensuring a cocoon-like environment, it can be difficult for the outside world to make its way in. Though Stellantis adopted the EVAS system in 2021, it has used over-the-air updates to backdate it into models with Uconnect 4C beginning in the 2018 model year.
The EVAS caution appears in the centre of the navigation screen, accompanied by an audible beep. The driver must acknowledge the warning and hit an ‘X’ to dismiss it, and the signal will override the stereo or a phone call until this occurs. Yes, owners can deactivate the system if they choose to. It’s not a built-in speed-trap detector; it will not alert you to a police car or other emergency vehicles unless their signals and sirens have been activated. For first responders who are already at high risk on roadways, it’s another tool in their kit to get to emergency situations faster, and more safely.
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Car-to-car connectivity is building rapidly, and HAAS is dedicated to incorporating every sector: emergency vehicle manufacturers, navigation system developers, police and first responders, and governmental organizations. Picture programs like Vision Zero and Move Over laws; they’re designed to keep vulnerable road users safe and to keep first responders out of danger.
Both types of programs lack the kind of immediacy EVAS can bring to the table: real-time, visual and audible warnings that you are entering a conceivably dangerous situation. Drivers have more time to respond, and lives will be saved.
Blaveski reveals that Stellantis is currently conducting studies on the next generation of road safety, in partnership with HAAS. The Hazard Enhanced Location Protocol (HELP) would identify and warn of vehicles broken down roadside; alerts of a disabled vehicle would incorporate a more rapid lighting pattern than standard four-way hazard lights, which could be activated automatically due to a severe crash, or manually for something like a flat tire. The vehicle would have to be stationary, so signals would not be sent by slow cars simply travelling with hazards flashing.
Response from first responders to the newly-created EVAS has been overwhelmingly positive. “The feedback from those using it call it amazing and accurate, from police and fire chiefs grateful for the assist with awareness,” Blaveski says. A volunteer firefighter asked how he could get his unit to be part of this. If you’ve ever been in a position of having to work beside live lanes of traffic, either in the capacity of a first responder or a road worker, you would recognize that gratitude.
While Stellantis is pleased to be acknowledged as the first auto manufacturer on the HAAS roster, Blaveski is blunt. “The entire industry should adopt the technology that enables us to all be safer.”
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