Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

Vehicles that will drive themselves are years away, but cars that can assist drivers in making travel safer are here today. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are becoming available in more cars and trucks with every passing model year. It’s easy to see why U.S. traffic crashes result in 2.4 million injuries and over 35,000 deaths annually, the vast majority of which are caused by human error. Putting even a small dent in those numbers could really add up, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that vehicle crashes cost the country $836 billion a year.

Common ADAS include blind spot monitoring, automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control that automatically adjusts your car’s speed to the flow of traffic.

Such systems were once offered only on high-end vehicles, but today they are available on a growing number of mid- and even entry-level models.

ADAS employ ultrasonic, radar, laser, camera, thermal and infrared sensors to monitor the world outside the vehicle. The information gathered is used by onboard computers to take appropriate actions when potentially hazardous situations arise. That could be something as simple as illuminating a warning light when a car enters the driver’s blind spot, or something far more complex such as taking control of the car’s throttle, brakes and/or steering to avoid a collision.

As drivers learn more about ADAS, they are becoming more comfortable with paying for the systems. A 2016 J.D. Power study found safety features such as ADAS boosted consumer satisfaction levels with their new cars. And, as ADAS become more widespread, early studies have found the systems appear to have a positive effect on insurance claims. In one recent report, mid-sized cars with crash avoidance systems had 14 percent fewer claims than identical vehicles without ADAS – evidence the systems are preventing or reducing the severity of accidents.

Whether reduced claims will translate to lower insurance rates remains to be seen. More research is needed, and questions remain about ADAS repair costs and whether the systems are secure against possible electronic intruders. In addition, ADAS are intended as driver aids. They are not substitutes for actively engaged motorists who maintain constant and vigilant control of their vehicles.

Concerns aside, auto industry insiders predict growing driver acceptance of ADAS could pave the way for fully autonomous vehicles in the future.