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ADAS: Past, present and future

Monday, July 1, 2019 - 07:00
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Adaptive cruise control (ACC) also known as dynamic cruise control, is considered a Level 1 ADAS technology. ACC systems can use radar, LIDAR (like those made by Ainstein (www.ainstein.ai) laser or camera based sensors to assist drivers in maintaining spacing between vehicles. Sensor input from ACC systems can use the vehicle’s engine management system to control braking and acceleration at speed. Radar systems can be long, or short range and some vehicles use both. The black-box sensor on a laser-based system must be exposed to the area that it is tracking and because the laser reflects off other cars it does not work well (or at all) in heavy rain or snow. Some camera-based systems use two, forward-facing cameras placed on either side of the rear view mirror providing binocular vision to the system’s computer. Through digital processing the ACC system can calculate distance of vehicles ahead.

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On some vehicles collision avoidance is another feature of ACC systems and uses the same sensors to warn drivers of a potential fender bender, or worse. In addition to sensors, GPS information can be used to alert the system of fixed objects like stop signs, intersections, exit and entrance freeway ramps and other hazardous driving areas. Future ACC systems will have an impact on increasing the capacity of roads by maintaining optimal separation distances between vehicles and provide a safer driving environment.

Wake up! Anti-sleep pilot, driver condition monitor, fatigue detection or tiredness detection warning are some of the names of systems that warn a driver that they are not paying attention to the road ahead—time to get some coffee or pull over and take a nap. Studies have shown that 20 percent, or higher or road accidents are driver fatigue-related. Driver drowsiness detection and lane departure warning systems are similar, if not identical. They can use road lane monitoring via a camera, steering pattern monitoring or driver eye and face monitoring to determine when to sound a warning. Future systems could use body sensors to measure things like heart rate, brain and muscle activity and skin conductance as a measure of how awake a driver really is.

From the inception of the automobile the ability of a driver to “park” the car has been a challenge. The parallel parking test for licensing is one of the most difficult skills that drivers have to demonstrate—so difficult that 16 states have dropped the requirement. The lack of parking skills has led to a vicarious form of entertainment—watching drivers trying to parallel park. No matter how many times they back-and-fill, and/or bump other cars, they can’t seem to get any closer to the curb. Automatic parking is an ADAS system that bridges the gap between driver assist and fully automatic driving in that the system takes over steering during parking maneuvers.

In general, Automatic Parking Systems (APS) use ultrasonic sensors located at the four corners of a vehicle to determine its position relative to other parked cars. In operation APS is turned on and the car is driven past the desired parking spot to determine if there is enough room to park. During parking the system instructs the driver to put the car in reverse or drive and apply the brakes until the car is parked. Perpendicular parking is a similar process. After driving past an empty parking space and measuring it, the vehicle self-steers, backing into the space while the driver controls the gas and brake pedals. With driver angst over parking it’s no surprise that automakers want to offer customers a way to circumvent their lack of parking skills.

Future ADAS systems will be a real factor in differentiating automotive brands from one another. OEMs and their suppliers know that they will also be a significant revenue source for selling consumers various levels of trim and add-on packages. As costs for ADAS tech comes down it will be found on less expensive cars and become common place.

ADAS and autonomous cars

As evidenced by current ADAS systems, driver assist technology of the future is only going to become a larger part of consumers’ automotive experience. The use of ultrasonic, radar and optical sensors will provide a more complete picture of a vehicle’s surroundings and shift more driving responsibility away from human drivers and towards computers with the goal of a safer and more relaxed driving experience. An important part of the transition to fully automatic driving is connecting vehicles to one another and their environment. The combination of sensor technology and connected vehicles will play an increasingly import role in the transition from ADAS systems to fully autonomous vehicles.

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