Telematics and ADAS: Ready for take off

Telematics and ADAS: Ready for take off

Drivers don't necessarily know how to drive. The 1.2 million annual traffic accident deaths each year attest to that.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which can help prevent injury, death, and property damage, are already available.

But now the time may be ripe for them to take off.

The most common ADAS technologies are lane departure warning and/or prevention, forward collision warning, side view assistance (also known as blind spot detection), and adaptive headlights.

There's a huge upside from ADAS for drivers and for society: almost two million crashes a year in the United States alone could be prevented by these safety features, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Despite this impressive statistic, ADAS has seen little take-up in the United States or Europe.

ADAS heats up

Of the 2010 models in these regions, only 6 percent of cars in the EU and 4 percent in the US hit the road with some sort of safety tech, according to Continental.

While ADAS technology has been around for a while, it’s just starting to heat up, according to Jeremy Carlson, ADAS technology researcher for iSuppli.

That's the result of product lifecycles that are finally getting shorter as well as advances in radar technology.

Other factors, he says, are falling hardware prices and increased functionality: "The newest systems are pretty intuitive and take some of the confusion out of it."

With Europe's tighter parking spaces and narrower roads, it's not surprising that there are some ADAS features available there but not in the US.

For example, Audi's Park-Lenk Assistent and Ford's Active Park Assist are already saving fenders in Germany.

Regulatory pressure

Pressure from regulators may help push ADAS into the market.

The European Road Safety Action Program had set a goal of reducing road fatalities in Europe by at least 50 percent by 2010.

Accidents in the EU are certainly down, and the initiative demonstrates that public policy can influence road safety.

"The EU in particular has been heavy on field testing, gathering real-time data on systems like forward collision warning, and trying to gain some momentum for mandates for forward collision warnings," Carlson says.

In the US, the National Transportation Safety Board has been lobbying to ban the use of in-car applications.

Bans on in-car texting and cell phone use are in effect in several states.
"These mandates provide a good opportunity for suppliers, but they're tough on the manufacturers," Carlson says.

Recently, electronic stability control was mandated for new cars in the US, Australia, and the EU.

"But that already has significantly higher availability in all models on the market, so it's not quite such a jump to mandate it," according to Carlson.

The telematics play

The immediate opportunity for telematics providers is in convenience, not safety, says Bernhard Mueller-Bessler of the Electronics Research Lab for Volkswagen Group of America.

"Safety is really important, and every customer wants it, but they don't want to pay for it,” he says.

“Comfort and convenience are also appreciated, and customers are more likely to pay for it."

Lack of consumer interest could also be due to OEMs' failure to market safety systems, says iSuppli's Carlson.

"There's a disconnect between what the vehicles are capable of, what the OEM is doing on research and development, and what gets pushed out to consumers," he says.

Most of today's ADAS features use in-car sensors. As cars become more connected, safety features will do the same.

One example is allowing safety systems to connect with navigation maps and data.

At the same time, a connected car and its applications will be able to take advantage of the processing power available on servers in the cloud to do the kind of number-crunching it takes to perform feats such as calculating the likelihood of collision with a car that's still hidden from the driver's view.

Another example is the Predictive Cruise Control (PCC) system that Daimler showcased in its Freightliner New Innovation Truck at the Mid-America Trucking Show last May.

The PCC system, which includes an on-board computer, looks one mile ahead on the route and adjusts engine output to the uphill and downhill gradients in order to maximize fuel economy.

In order to save the most fuel, it may override the preset cruise control speed without reducing the average speed.

Autonomous cars

The safest and most advanced ADAS strategy may be taking the driving out of the hands of drivers altogether.

Audi has demonstrated autonomous cars that drive themselves, and the EU's SARTRE initiative aims to allow one lead vehicle to guide a convoy of autos.

The trailing cars' navigation systems will communicate with the lead vehicle, freeing the rest of the drivers to enjoy content and applications that may have nothing to do with driving.

While consumers who came of age at a time when driving was an act of freedom may find autonomous driving uncomfortable, the iPad generation might be happy to leave the driving to the car.

For more on the connected vehicle, see ‘Making the connected car a reality’. Click here

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.


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