To Get Safer, We Don’t Need To Wait For Automated Driving

Last updated: 12-20-2019

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To Get Safer, We Don’t Need To Wait For Automated Driving

Automated driving is frequently touted as bringing vastly increased safety to our roads in the future. Wrong! Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are doing the lion’s share of the work right now and will be on virtually all cars sold well before automated vehicles are commonplace in dealer showrooms. 

In fact, ADAS have served to increase safety for years thanks to automakers and regulators bringing specialized and highly capable crash avoidance systems to market. Starting in the late 1990’s, the earliest systems offered warnings only: forward collisions, lane departures, blind spots. These features, along with Adaptive Cruise Control, were relatively expensive and could only be found on luxury vehicles. Uptake was modest at first, but the perceived value started to grow in the 00’s. Prices came down as sales volumes increased. The next step up in capability was active intervention, in the form of Honda’s Collision Mitigation Braking System introduced in 2003. Nowadays these interventions also include steering nudges to keep you in your lane, whether drifting or trying to change lanes when another car is in your blind spot.  

When I give talks I like to ask my audience if they have these types of systems on their own car. Typically, about a third of the group raises their hands. This has changed a lot over the years and the numbers keep going up. Going beyond warning-only, active intervention systems are more and more common in most brands, as options or as standard equipment. It’s impressive to see carmakers featuring these systems in television advertisements during sporting events! 

There are double-digit millions of cars on the road now with some form of crash avoidance capability.  In fact, IHS Markit tells me that millions of ADAS systems are sold each year, over 10% of vehicles sold globally. Uptake is also strong for heavy trucks, where the economic advantages of avoiding crashes with ADAS are accelerating adoption.  

ADAS systems on the road now aren’t perfect but they are very effective overall. Although the effects are not yet discernable in national crash statistics, crashes are being avoided every day.   Maybe you weren’t hit by someone else because of this tech.   

I highly recommend the National Safety Council’s MyCarDoesWhat.org as a great source of information on the many ADAS systems out there.

This extensive marketing and consumer activity is happening independently of the development of Automated Driving Systems (ADS).  For ADS developers, safety has to be “baked in.”  Meeting a very high safety bar is a given and only a means to a greater end, which is to offer new options in personal mobility, goods movement, and personal convenience. The advent of ADS takes advantage of twenty years of ADAS maturation. To oversimplify a bit, ADS are basically built on top of ADAS.  

If for some reason the development and introduction of automated vehicles comes to a halt, we will nevertheless see more and more cars and trucks on the road with crash avoidance systems.  And in just a few years, new regulations in Europe will result in huge increases in equipped vehicles. I’ll talk about this, and why the U.S. lags behind, in my next article. 

Automated driving is frequently touted as bringing vastly increased safety to our roads in the future. Wrong! Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are doing the lion’s share of the work right now and will be on virtually all cars sold well before automated vehicles are commonplace in dealer showrooms. 

In fact, ADAS have served to increase safety for years thanks to automakers and regulators bringing specialized and highly capable crash avoidance systems to market. Starting in the late 1990’s, the earliest systems offered warnings only: forward collisions, lane departures, blind spots. These features, along with Adaptive Cruise Control, were relatively expensive and could only be found on luxury vehicles. Uptake was modest at first, but the perceived value started to grow in the 00’s. Prices came down as sales volumes increased. The next step up in capability was active intervention, in the form of Honda’s Collision Mitigation Braking System introduced in 2003. Nowadays these interventions also include steering nudges to keep you in your lane, whether drifting or trying to change lanes when another car is in your blind spot.  

When I give talks I like to ask my audience if they have these types of systems on their own car. Typically, about a third of the group raises their hands. This has changed a lot over the years and the numbers keep going up. Going beyond warning-only, active intervention systems are more and more common in most brands, as options or as standard equipment. It’s impressive to see carmakers featuring these systems in television advertisements during sporting events! 

There are double-digit millions of cars on the road now with some form of crash avoidance capability.  In fact, IHS Markit tells me that millions of ADAS systems are sold each year, over 10% of vehicles sold globally. Uptake is also strong for heavy trucks, where the economic advantages of avoiding crashes with ADAS are accelerating adoption.  

ADAS systems on the road now aren’t perfect but they are very effective overall. Although the effects are not yet discernable in national crash statistics, crashes are being avoided every day.   Maybe you weren’t hit by someone else because of this tech.   

I highly recommend the National Safety Council’s MyCarDoesWhat.org as a great source of information on the many ADAS systems out there.

This extensive marketing and consumer activity is happening independently of the development of Automated Driving Systems (ADS).  For ADS developers, safety has to be “baked in.”  Meeting a very high safety bar is a given and only a means to a greater end, which is to offer new options in personal mobility, goods movement, and personal convenience. The advent of ADS takes advantage of twenty years of ADAS maturation. To oversimplify a bit, ADS are basically built on top of ADAS.  

If for some reason the development and introduction of automated vehicles comes to a halt, we will nevertheless see more and more cars and trucks on the road with crash avoidance systems.  And in just a few years, new regulations in Europe will result in huge increases in equipped vehicles. I’ll talk about this, and why the U.S. lags behind, in my next article. 


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