The future of the automobile will be much like what many of us saw in Demolition Man. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it was released in October 1993 and takes place in 2032 —15 years from now. It features self-driving vehicles with interactive on-board communication with the the driver. Systems are voice activated, including tire changes and back-up and side cameras; there is touch electronic dash instrumentation, collision avoidance systems, communication with other vehicles and, in case of a collision, the vehicle instantaneously fills with foam for occupant protection. We all — kind of — know where we are right now with technological advances in vehicles, don’t we? Let’s take a look at what we really mean by advancements and some currently available driver assistance systems.
|(Courtesy of Audi) Audi A4 driver assistance systems - overview of sensors|
Key fobs and automatic interval maintenance
One key for him; one key for her. Press the unlock button or just grab the door handle and the vehicle knows which person is entering the vehicle. The seat, steering wheel, mirrors, radio stations and even the accelerator and brake pedals adjust to your settings based on the memory pre-set in the key fob the last time it was in the vehicle. Accelerator levels, shift points and driving habits control interval maintenance recommendations, which means your spouse’s vehicle may need an oil change every 8,000 miles, while your vehicle, an identical one, would require an oil change every 3,500 miles. This ensures the vehicle is maintained to provide proper performance for years of reliability.
Adaptive Cruise Control
These systems regulate the speed you set and then sensors, radar or cameras check the interval to the vehicle ahead by automatically accelerating and braking in a speed range of roughly 0 to 100 mph —although Audi and Mercedes-Benz claim upwards of 150 mph. Auto or Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) uses radar sensors or cameras installed in the front of the vehicle, bumper, grille or front windshield to read the objects in front of the vehicle. Generally, the sonar or radar waves are sent out and signal back once they bounce off an object. The field of view is generally 30 to 40 degrees and about 500 to 800 feet. Sensor control units process the signal readings and detect vehicles or objects ahead. On higher-end sport and luxury vehicles, the controls adjust for sport to comfort or soft-ride settings. On some of the newer and more advanced systems, there is a Stop & Go traffic feature that allows the ACC to actually start and stop automatically. The system slows the car to a stop — at traffic lights, for example — and it will automatically move again, following the vehicle ahead. During longer stops, the system will make the driver “tap” the accelerator or the control lever or button on the column or steering wheel. During this process, the system checks the image data supplied by video cameras and sensors consistently to ensure safety. These systems can detect possible dangers, such as pedestrians crossing the road at the last minute. Additionally, the parking system’s sensors provide detailed information of vehicles and objects nearby, just prior moving or during low-speed maneuvers.
|(Courtesy of Ford) 2013 Ford Fusion sensors and cameras|
These ACCs with Stop & Go function constantly receive information from other driver assistance systems. There can be data coming in from 20 to 30 other control units, continuously analyzing the vehicle’s surroundings. This expanse of data enables the system to recognize multiple different scenarios and predicatively support the driver and act accordingly if the driver does not. Many of these systems utilize information provided by the GPS/navigation system; this data allows the vehicle systems to know the selected route, and it can then predict and compute curves or even traffic and accidents.
Many of these ACC systems are so smart and knowledgeable that they are able to act autonomously in most situations, such as quickly passing a car turning in an urban road to changing lanes when another vehicle is merging on the highway. Each manufacturer offers ACC in a number of different versions, including without Stop & Go function, depending on the model series and packages. So when repairing these vehicles, make sure you reference the OEM procedures for aiming and realigning or re-aiming these sensors and cameras.
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Lane Assist or Lane Keep
Most of these Lane Assist Systems utilize an electromechanical power steering system, along with a camera mounted in the rear-view mirror, outside side-view mirrors or attached to the front windshield to detect the lane markings and even roadway signage. These cameras can deliver multiple high-definition images to the computer controls and those images are viewed as algorithms that allow the system to determine appropriate action, if necessary. Generally the navigation software assists in detecting the lane markings and the route the vehicle is traveling.
|(Courtesy of Ford) Ford Lane Keeping Assist|
For example, if your vehicle approaches a lane line or marker without the turn signal being activated, the system helps the driver to steer back into the lane by intervening and gently easing the vehicle back on track using the electromechanical steering. Older systems had an audible sound, a vibration in the seat or even both warnings. On wider lanes, where the vehicle can drift considerably prior to breaching the lane line, the driver would be alerted by a seat or steering wheel vibration, if necessary. Some systems provide color images for the system to differentiate between yellow lane lines in construction zones and white lane lines. Again, it is imperative to refer to the OEM procedures for replacement of the system components, even if you just remove them for replacement of the component they are affixed to. This information will be in the mechanical or electronic sections of the repair manual, not in the body repair area.