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What is ADAS?

ADAS stands for Advanced Driver Assistance System and is a built-in suite of coordinated technologies that help drivers operate their vehicles more safely. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 94% of serious car accidents are caused by human error. ADAS was developed to help reduce traffic accidents by integrating automated detection, navigation, and avoidance features into personal and commercial vehicles.

The major purpose of ADAS software is safety. By improving a vehicle’s awareness of its environment and ability to respond appropriately within milliseconds; these systems give cars a super-power-like ability to avoid danger. In ADAS, sensors such as lidar, radar and cameras work together to inform features such as pedestrian detection and lane departure warning. In addition, ADAS is also important for its ability to reduce driver workload and stress, improve comfort and convenience, and facilitate the transition to fully autonomous driving.

ADAS sits at Level 2 and Level 2+ in the spectrum of autonomous driving.  As the levels of autonomy get higher, there is more machine control and less human control. Today, ADAS technologies are helping us move towards Level 5 (fully autonomous driving) by acclimating drivers to the concept that eventually, technology will be able to handle all parts of the driving experience—no driver needed. 

Note: The difference between L2 and L2+ autonomy is that L2+ includes additional capabilities that create a higher level of automation (such as automated lane changing), but the driver is still in full control. 

Types of ADAS

ADAS includes a range of features, from basic assistance to advanced automations. Some of these include:

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC): Helps drivers keep a safe following distance by adjusting the vehicle’s speed in relation to the vehicle in front of them.

Adaptive Driving Beam Headlights (ADB): Changes from high beam to low beam, or shifts the focus in the right direction, to adapt to the vehicle’s exterior illumination needs of the moment.

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB): Applies the brakes when a collision is anticipated.

Blind Spot Detection (BSD): Signals the driver when another vehicle is in an out-of-sight position to the side of their car. Especially helpful when changing lanes.

Cross-Traffic Alert (CTA): Reduces the risk of collisions by warning the driver of approaching vehicles while in reverse.

Driver Drowsiness Detection: Helps prevent accidents by monitoring the driver and alerting them when signs of fatigue are perceived.

Parking Assistance: This aids the driver when parallel or perpendicular parking by sensing the parking spot and surrounding obstacles, then executing the parking maneuver automatically.

Traffic Sign Recognition: Often working with a driver’s heads-up display, this feature can identify speed limits and other traffic signs to keep drivers informed.

What are the Components of ADAS?

ADAS consists of several individual components that work together to improve driving safety and comfort. Using real-time information from each component, the ADAS can perceive the environment, plan an action, and control the mechanical elements of the car to execute the action.

Sensors: Includes all the components that intake information, such as cameras, radar, lidar, ultrasonic and infrared sensors. These sensors can detect the distance, speed, and temperature of other objects, as well as capture visual information for interpreting signs and road markings.

Chips and Processors: Integrated circuits throughout the system control sensor interfacing and data processing to facilitate communication between components.

Control Unit: The control unit coordinates data using embedded software to make decisions and send commands to the vehicle’s mechanical systems.

Actuators: When the control unit decides about the vehicle’s behavior, the actuators convert the electronic signals into physical actions. These include power steering, braking, and throttle actuators.

How is ADAS Technology Developed?

In addition to the extreme complexity of integrating multiple technologies, several challenges make the design and development of ADAS unique. First, ADAS requires real-time response while adapting to dynamic conditions. It also provides human-machine interaction, making intuitive communication essential to eliminate confusion and ensure user-friendly operation. And ADAS is subject to complex regulations, such as ISO26262, an international FuSa (functional safety) standard that applies to all vehicle electrical and electronic systems. 

To develop an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) engineers undertake a multi-stage process encompassing research, design, and testing.

  1. Research: Ideas for new ADAS features (or improvements for existing ones) are explored based on emerging technologies, changing regulatory requirements, manufacturer input, and user trends. 
  2. Design: Sensor selection and placement, software and hardware components, and human-machine interface come together in ideation that drives specifications to guide implementation.
  3. Testing, Verification, and Validation: All components of the system are evaluated, both individually and as a system, to ensure the ADAS feature will meet its safety and performance requirements in real-world scenarios. 

During the design and testing phases, engineers rely on simulation software to help them explore options and verify that a design will achieve regulatory standards before a physical prototype is built. This software makes it possible to predict and validate the complex internal coordination of multidisciplinary technologies and mechanics within the ADAS system that would be otherwise invisible to the engineer.

Additionally, simulation makes it possible to substitute the road testing of vehicles over billions of miles. These virtual models let engineers evaluate millions of scenarios, including unforeseen, critical edge cases that would be too hazardous, expensive, and time-consuming to achieve using real-world driving tests.  Virtual testing via simulation is the only feasible way to accelerate the development of advance ADAS systems that will achieve compliance while building consumer trust and acceptance.  

What is the Future of ADAS Technology?

The future of ADAS will be greatly influenced by its ability to overcome key challenges. Unforeseen driving scenarios (such as extreme weather conditions), compliance with regulatory standards, cybersecurity risks, and driver education are some hurdles that complicate ADAS's evolution. But as these systems continue to improve in detection, perception, and execution, they will lead the way to the production of fully autonomous vehicles.

Achieving Level 5 autonomy will require enhancements to existing features and the integration of sensor fusion techniques, greater reliance on AI-driven decision making, and robust communications capabilities such as Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X). With the collaboration of engineers, automotive manufacturers, technology developers, and drivers, ADAS will continue improving road safety and the overall driving experience until, the dream of fully autonomous driving becomes a reality. 

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