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ADAS, the first steps towards the autonomous car
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ADAS, the first steps towards the autonomous car

Posted by Zenobia HegdeJanuary 3, 2017

Andrew Lee, head of Market Intelligence and Analysis at Octo Telematics looks at the ADAS systems currently being installed in today’s cars and says they are the first steps towards the driverless car of tomorrow.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS, are rapidly becoming standard equipment for new cars. They help us park in tight spots, have collision detection systems that automatically brake if we’re getting too close to an obstacle, and even monitor and adjust speed according to traffic conditions and the rules of the road.

They can also detect if a car is straying from its assigned lane and make sure drivers keep proper road discipline. The car can make the seat vibrate to send a warning.

However, there’s a tendency to think of ADAS in terms of collecting and analysing data solely for the car it’s installed in. The parking assist and collision detection use sensors to gather data from the vehicle’s immediate environment and feed it back to allow for proper corrections and adjustments. This makes perfect sense within the confines of the car, but becomes even more effective when it’s tuned into the world around it.

As cities become increasingly ‘smart’, cars and the sensors and telematics within them will become integral to navigating them safely. With cars requiring less and less driver input, having systems that can be constantly communicating with other vehicles, traffic lights and even pedestrians will become a necessity.

Driverless cars will also be able to adjust for the weather and condition of the road, avoiding potholes and potentially traffic jams. All of this will simply be an extension of existing ADAS systems.

However, before we see the driverless car, current ADAS does not allow us to take our hands off the wheel. Assisted driving means just that. There’s a clear danger that drivers may relax too much and allow themselves to be distracted, such as texting or using smartphones on social media—a recipe for disaster.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has published statistics showing that 30% of drivers already talk on mobile phones, with 27% admitting that they can be distracted by dialling a number while driving, a major cause of road accidents. Drivers need to be aware of the road and traffic conditions, no matter the degree of assistance they are receiving from the vehicle.

Alcohol ignition interlock devices already stop a driver from starting a car if their breath alcohol levels are above a prescribed amount. We may see similar initiatives to prevent smartphone use while the vehicle is in motion.

As we place more responsibility onto the systems in cars, it’s important that proper emphasis is also placed on maintenance. Any complex equipment can fail at multiple points in the chain and this is something that can affect insurance policies.

Companies providing insurance and recognising discounts for ADAS-enabled cars must be assured that the state of the sensors remains constant throughout its lifetime. In addition to communicating the location of the vehicle to fit into the connected ecosystem, telematics in the vehicles can monitor its health, ensuring that all systems are up-to-date and functioning correctly.

This reassurance will enable insurers to price premiums accordingly, without having to factor mechanical failure into their premium calculations. In fact, due to the possibility of real-time, over-the-air updates, cars that are fitted with ADAS and telematics systems will be safer than those without—any issues can be flagged within moments of their occurrence.

For more than a decade, ADAS systems have been on the market and during this time have made their way into a number of functional areas across the modern vehicle. As the infrastructure for a smart ecosystem is being built around us, from smart homes to smart intersections, and as the Internet of Things continues to take root in our daily lives, ADAS will continue to evolve from merely assisting drivers to full autonomy.

The author of this blog is Andrew Lee, head of Market Intelligence and Analysis at Octo Telematics

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Zenobia Hegde

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