24th January 2019
The latest ADAS of note and remarkable systems in the pipeline as showcased at CES 2019
Although misconceptions exist amongst general motorists over ‘advanced driver assistance systems’ (ADAS) indicating that a car is autonomous or ‘driverless’, as highlighted by a Euro NCAP, Global NCAP and Thatcham Research study1 late last year, such technologies have fast become part and parcel of decisions for many fleet managers.
Examples of ADAS include2 adaptive cruise control (ACC), blind spot warnings, electronic stability control (ESC), forward collision warning (FCW), cameras potentially fitted to all sides, night vision, parking aids and rear cross traffic alert3.
The rise in and benefits of standard-fit ADAS
SMMT and JATO Dynamics figures point to 66.8% of new cars as featuring one ADAS or more, and the Association of Car Fleet Operators was one of the first leading organisations to call for autonomous emergency braking (AEB) to be mandatorily fitted to all new vehicles rather than the 53.1% level reported at the time4 – a plea echoed by Ainsible Motion5 in Q3 2018, citing a likely 80% accident reduction as a result. The company develops driving simulators used by OEMs to test safety features without damaging any vehicles, to analyse the interaction between them and humans, and to refine the development of driverless cars. Fascinatingly, video game6 software development has actually underpinned much of the 3D, laser and other computing power behind ADAS technology.
Despite such features’ obvious benefits in terms of the safety of vehicles, drivers, pedestrians and other road users, lack of understanding over the limitations of ADAS is often discussed in the media, with America’s AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety7 comparing a 40% reduction in crashes with almost 80% of drivers being unaware that, for instance, blind spot monitoring doesn’t always detect high-speed vehicles. A Thatcham Research video last year illustrated how some ADAS systems fail to detect stationary objects8, while thought leaders including Trak Labs’ managing director Andrew Brown-Allan have foreseen how complacency9 surrounding such technology would increasingly become a concern.
We agree with the view10 of leading contract hire company Arval that specific education surrounding ADAS for company car fleet drivers would be beneficial, helping them understand how such technology works before it’s called upon to potentially save their lives. It is unarguable, though, that the incorporation of ADAS into windscreens, wing mirrors and other components has seen the cost of accident repairs rise, with a 12% repair cost increase reported in the Netherlands11 over the last three years.
Pros and cons of ADAS aside, what are some of the most noteworthy systems now available, and what’s to come in the future according to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019?
The proliferation of Stop&Go systems
Although UK law still requires drivers to keep both of their hands on the steering wheel to avoid such functionality becoming deactivated after a number of warnings, many cars now come with systems that are technologically able to completely take over steering, acceleration and braking to keep the vehicles inside the lines, within the prevailing speed limit and a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Examples include Audi’s ‘adaptive cruise assist’ technology for the new A6, A8 and other forthcoming monikers, BMW’s ‘active cruise control with Stop&Go’ and ‘steering and lane control assistant including traffic jam assist’ suites available for the new 3 Series, X3, 7 Series and other badges, and Citroen’s ‘highway driver assist’ system at the more mainstream end of the scale, launched via the new C5 Aircross SUV.
New ‘alert’ technologies continuously introduced
The new Ford Focus sees a raft of reassuring ADAS woven into the latest iteration of one of the most popular company car fleet and general models of the last few decades and the manufacturer says that its ‘predictive curve light and sign-based light’ is the first of its kind12. The technology alters the headlight beams according to the changing road signs and lane markings that it detects ahead, uses GPS to intelligently illuminate the road in front before the driver even needs to turn, and shines more light on cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users at junctions and roundabouts. Also available for the new Ford Focus are ‘evasive steering assist’ that detects slower and stationary vehicles and augments the driver’s steering inputs to manoeuvre around them more effectively, and ‘wrong way alert’13 that is intended to reduce incidents of driving the wrong way down dual carriageways and motorways. Twenty-two people were killed in Germany in 2017 as a result of wrong-way driving, while stories of such incidents are far from uncommon in the UK.
‘Rear cross traffic alert’ or similarly-sounding systems only started being introduced around three years ago but are now available for the majority of makes and models14, from the relatively humble Ford Fiesta and the popular Nissan Qashqai to the hefty and capable Land Rover Discovery. Car parks are notorious places for slow-speed accidents, the most recent retrievable figures identifying 1,400 prangs on a daily basis. Combined with the trend for the latest models growing in size while many parking bays remain inadequately accommodating, such an ADAS is of great benefit. When reversing out of a space, rear cross traffic alert15 uses cameras and or radar technology to detect and alert the driver to moving objects from dogs and people to cyclists and vehicles that are approaching from the sides from as far away as 50m in some cases. SEAT’s system for the Ateca even applies the brakes if the driver has failed to react to a moving object getting closer.
Toyota ADAS inspired by planes
CES 2019 proved a feast as always when it comes to automotive technology and it’s clear that safety is as prominent on the agenda of OEMs and third parties as entertainment and engine technology are. Toyota, the world’s largest car manufacturer by volume, revealed Toyota Guardian16, which is based around ‘blended envelope control’, essentially meaning that the car continuously and seamlessly monitors the driver and amplifies or augment’s his or her skills, human and machine working together to each of their strengths. Toyota’s ethos is inspired by flying a plane whereby a low-level flight control system continuously works in the background to keep the aircraft stable and within a specific safety envelope, but the pilot feels in control with the stick in their hand. Toyota Guardian is being developed with autonomous vehicles in mind along with the ability to perceive and predict surroundings, while retaining the core principle that the driver must feel in control and derive enjoyment behind the wheel.
Practical thinking with safety in mind
Clarion17, a name primarily associated with aftermarket audio and infotainment systems, impressed CES 2019 attendees with its ALWAYSCLEAR technology, developed to keep a car’s cameras clean at all times, which will become ever more important as Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles are gradually authorised to take to the road. Clarion ALWAYSCLEAR is a four-camera surround system that senses dirt and washes itself automatically, maximising visual safety. Night vision is also fast becoming a popular ADAS, such as on the new Peugeot 508, and Clarion’s NIGHTWATCH system promises superlative night-time visibility that will again augment not only today’s driven cars but also publicly-available autonomous vehicles of the near future.
Cameras and biometrics
Cars are becoming increasingly technology-rich and digitised, and Samsung subsidiary Harman18 is developing on behalf of OEMs a 360-degree suite that will enable an expanding range of ADAS applications, with a vehicle’s surroundings monitored, recorded and analysed on a continuous basis in parallel to data from the cloud and from sensors. Research often identifies that drivers typically don’t develop a familiarity with their cars’ ADAS tech, noticing it only when potential or actual accidents arise, so Harman envisages its Augmented Reality platform as bolstering trust between safety technology and car drivers. The company’s front-facing camera even combines with long-range radar, while its camera monitoring system will be capable of replacing physical mirrors, which is admittedly a move OEMS including Audi19 and Lexus have already poured significant development into, the former’s imminently-arriving e-tron featuring cameras and screens where traditional wing mirrors would once be. Harman has also developed a cabin monitoring system that will analyse the head position, pupil diameter, eye gaze and other primary biometric driver variables with safety again at the forefront. Harman’s 360-degree and cabin-focussed ADAS systems aim to be all-encompassing, but such technology will of course be expensive to repair, as rising windscreen replacement costs20 have shown in recent years.
Holographic augmented reality reaches cars
Following Hyundai CRADLE’s strategic investment in Swiss deep-tech start-up WayRay, CES 2019 saw the duo unveil the world’s first Holographic Augmented Reality Navigation system via a proof of concept demonstration vehicle21, but this incredible technology is set to feature in imminent iterations of Hyundai’s Genesis G80 luxury saloon. Head-up displays are now available on many even mainstream models like the Citroen Berlingo and new Ford Focus, but are naturally limited in their sheer size and hence scope, and often rely on indirectly-reflected images through pop-up LCD screens. WayRay’s 1,310mm x 3,152mm holographic augmented reality navigation system projects images directly on the windscreen, effectively projecting 3D, life-like navigation guidance 15m onto the road ahead, complemented by other driver information such as speed and time, plus ADAS functionality including forward collision and lane departure warnings. The displayed imagery automatically adjusts according to the driver’s head movements and seating position, and the system impressively avoids the need for a headset to be worn22. It will gradually be capable of highlighting buses, bicycles, pedestrians and other objects on the windscreen along with a myriad other connected car ‘swarm’ data.
Road safety is at the core of Trak Global Group’s brands including Appy Fleet and Carrot Insurance, so the abundance of ADAS increasingly being fitted as standard to many affordable models and those popular with fleets is very encouraging, and it’s clear from CES 2019 that exciting impetus is continuously being devoted to making the cars of today and tomorrow as safe as possible, with technology very much at the heart.
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