Autonomous vehicles are being talked about more and more, but we’re still a pretty long way from an entirely autonomous vehicle which can drive itself.
Thatcham Research in association with Euro NCAP has started to evaluate the ADAS systems as well as incorporating the safety functions performance within the Euro NCAP ratings for new vehicles. Features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) have been proven to reduce the number of accidents and collisions and has been likened to the benefits brought about by ABS ‘Anti-lock Braking Systems’ and even the humble seatbelt.
So, let’s take a look at some of the systems available to you...
ACC manages your speed by using sensors to determine the distance from the vehicle in front. Most ACC systems allow you to set an appropriate speed and distance from the vehicle in front and some systems will also work in conjunction with a lane keeping aid to help keep your vehicle in the centre of the lane or even help you to change lane by using the indicators.
This safety technology uses sensors to assess traffic conditions ahead and will automatically apply the brakes if the driver fails to, which can prevent an accident or mitigate a collision. There are different levels of AEB with some “inter urban” systems operational at motorway speeds while some only operate at city speeds up to 30mph. Some of the latest systems also come with pedestrian protection and can detect cyclists, large animals and people, as well as other cars.
It’s a warning system that lets you know when another vehicle is in your blind spot – helpful, right? This can help prevent collisions when changing lane with many manufacturers using sensors similar to parking sensors. Because these warnings may be regular, particularly on motorways, they are non-obtrusive such as a warning light in the wing mirror or on the dashboard
Manufacturers are now using multiple systems to help avoid or at least mitigate collisions using different sensors around the car that work to keep the vehicle out of harm’s way. One example of this is Volvo’s City safety with steering support. This system works in the same way as AEB, with additional support if the driver needs to make an evasive manoeuvre around an obstacle in the road to help prevent a skid or over steering.
When your vehicle stops at a junction, this system will warn you if you pull out and it detects traffic approaching from the sides. Some systems may autonomously stop or slow down the vehicle if the driver is trying to manoeuvre from a junction when traffic is present. Rear cross traffic alert also works in the same way; the system will warn you or even stop the vehicle if you are reversing from a parking space…perfect for those pesky parking spaces!
Aimed to combat driver distractions or tiredness at the wheel, these warning systems monitor your driving performance and alert you if a lack of attentiveness is detected. Most systems will give an audible alert along with a message on the dashboard encouraging you to take a break; while more advanced systems can even alert you of a potential collision.
Also known as Forward Collision Warning, this is not to be confused with AEB. Emergency Brake Assist will apply additional braking force if it detects the driver is braking in an emergency situation and intelligently distributes the brake force appropriately between each wheel to help prevent a collision. However, this system only works if the driver has performed an emergency brake, and will not activate autonomously like AEB.
This function will apply the parking brake for a number of seconds when the sensors in the vehicle detect it is on an incline. The parking brake is slowly released as the accelerator is pressed and the vehicle moves away. No more tricky hills starts!
This system alerts you with an audible and/or visual warning that your vehicle is about to veer out of the lane so that you can steer back on course. There are several iterations of the technology available, including those which automatically react by steering the vehicle back to the middle of the lane; known as Lane Keep Assist.
The next step up from Lane Departure Warning; this system is more advanced and is designed to steer the vehicle to keep a central position between lane markings using cameras mounted in the windscreen. If the vehicle starts to unintentionally cross lanes, the system generates a warning sound before steering, and in some cases braking is automatically applied too.
This one pretty much does what it says on the tin. The vehicle will only change lane if it is safe to do so by using the indicators and recognising any hazards that may prevent the manoeuvre.
This system is made up of ultrasonic or electromagnetic sensors on the front and rear bumpers which can detect when the vehicle is in close proximity to another vehicle or object and will give you an audible and visual warning (or in some cases a physical input) as a warning. Some vehicles have this technology all around the car to sense if the sides of the vehicle are also in close proximity to an object that you may not be able to see in your mirrors. Rear parking cameras are also now commonly fitted as standard or as an option with parking packs to aid the driver when parking. No more avoiding those parallel parking spots!
Also known as automated parking; this allows the driver to hand control of the steering wheel over to the vehicle, while the accelerator and brake are both still required as an input to the on-board computer. In some cases manufacturers are developing systems that allow the driver to step out of the vehicle altogether and hand all parking responsibilities over to the vehicle itself (!) however, the driver is still responsible for the safe use of such functions.
More and more vehicles are being made with added pedestrian safety systems to mitigate injury if the vehicle were to hit a pedestrian. Crumple zones, pop up bonnets and, in some cases, external airbags are being developed and added to vehicles to increase pedestrian safety.
This system can read road signs to alert you of a change in road condition or speed and is usually displayed on the instrument panel or “virtual cockpit”.
While these systems can be a great help to drivers and pedestrians alike, these systems need to be maintained just like your tyres, brakes and engine oil. So, if you need a windscreen replacement or are involved in an accident, it's likely that your sensors will require some form of recalibration as they're usually located in vulnerable areas of your car like the windscreen, behind bumpers or in the grille at the front of your car.
Sensors that are misaligned or damaged will mean your ADAS will not function correctly. LV= covers you for recalibration as part of a windscreen replacement by Autoglass as well as recalibration following damage repair.
So, before we totally hand over control to robots, make sure the basics such as your car insurance and breakdown cover are sorted too.