Driver assistance when you need it
While advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technologies have appeared in luxury cars for some time, they are increasingly appearing in less expensive cars. Matthew Beecham reviews the extent to which ADAS is permeating car segments.
An emergency drill onboard AIDAsol cruise ship in 2019. Image: MikhailBerkut / Shutterstock.com
riverless means a vehicle that has no driver and, therefore, needs to be able to do everything by itself – without a steering wheel - thus fully automated. That suggests a level of automation hence the SAE’s six levels of automation. These levels are also referred to as key stages towards automated driving, namely feet-off, hands-off, eyes off, and brain off.
Although there is still a buzz around level 3 – 5 cars, most new cars already have some level of basic driver assistance. ADAS technologies aim to make the vehicle capable of perceiving its surroundings, interpreting them, identifying critical situations, and assisting the driver in performing driving manoeuvres. The object is, at best, to prevent accidents completely and, at worst, minimise the consequences of an accident for those concerned.
Starting from the top, let’s take a look at who is what offering what in the ADAS department.
Executive car: BMW 5 Series
Launched in 2017 – and refreshed in 2020 – the seventh-generation BMW 5 Series is even more high-tech, efficient and accommodating. And the driver assistance system takes the 5 Series a step further down the road to automated driving. This includes technologies such as dynamic cruise control and a speed limit info system. The latter can also take into account speed restrictions further along the driver’s route, encouraging a more proactive driving style. The optional Driving Assistant Plus safety package includes the Lane Keeping Assistant, the Lane Departure Warning system and the Lane Change Warning. Moreover, Side Collision Warning alerts drivers using a visual signal or steering wheel vibration to another vehicle encroaching from the side.
Another noteworthy function contained in the Driving Assist Plus package is the Evasion Aid. If a swift lane change is required because an obstacle has suddenly appeared in the driver’s path, the Evasion Aid – which operates at speeds of up to 99mph, perfect for the German Autobahn – supports the necessary evasive steering action.
The refreshed 5 Series is also equipped with a Drive Recorder option coupled with Parking Assistant Plus that uses in-built cameras to record video footage from different points around the vehicle, before storing the recordings so they can either be watched later on the control display or exported via the USB port. Recordings can be up to 40 seconds in length, comprising the 20 seconds of video saved immediately before the Drive Recorder being activated and the next 20 seconds. In the event of a collision, the 20 seconds up to the moment of impact and the next 20 seconds are automatically recorded and saved.
Large SUV: VW Touareg
VW’s SUV range, led by the Touareg, consists of the T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace, Atlas (US) and its sister model Teramont (China). Touareg sits on the Volkswagen Group’s flexible modular longitudinal matrix which is used for high-end models with engines and gearboxes installed longitudinally.
It is not often that we come across cars with night vision. So it is a pleasant surprise to see that the Touareg has this on offer. It uses an infrared camera to detect people or animals in front of the vehicle at night or in low-visibility conditions. The system can detect objects within a 250-metre range, beyond the headlights' scope and present on the HUD. Touareg also comes equipped with several technologies as standard, including traffic jam and roadwork lane assist; front cross traffic assist; active all-wheel steering; and a new roll stabilisation system with electromechanically controlled anti-roll bars.
VW’s Trailer Assist including Park Assist is worthy of note. Linked with the rearview camera, this technology helps the driver reverse with a trailer or caravan attached. The optical display visualises actual and possible steering angles in the instrument cluster. Reverse steering is automatic, with direction controlled via the mirror adjustment switch which acts like a joystick, while the driver controls the pedals and keeps a good lookout. A powered swivelling towbar can be activated by pushing a button on the sidewall of the boot.
Mid-size SUV: Volvo XC60
As expected from Volvo, the XC60 comes wrapped in a safety blanket of ADAS technologies: Steer Assist (automatically provides steering input in an emergency to help avoid potential collisions), Oncoming Lane Mitigation (designed to prevent head-on collisions at certain speeds if you unwittingly drift out of lane, guiding you into your lane and out of the path of any oncoming cars) and Blind Spot Information Systems with Steer Assist (automatically applies the steering to bring the car back into its lane, again at certain speeds). The Run-off Road Protection is another useful ADAS feature that automatically tightens the front seatbelts should the car inadvertently leave the road, while front seat frames with a collapsible section reduce vertical forces to help prevent spinal injuries.
It also features the carmaker’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive technology. Available across the XC60 range, Pilot Assist helps the driver to drive the car between the lane's side markings using steering assistance as well as to maintain an even speed, combined with a preselected time interval to the vehicle ahead. It assists with the steering (up to 80mph) to keep the car within its lane and works with adaptive cruise control to maintain the desired cruising speed or a safe distance from any vehicle in front. Pilot Assist can automatically accelerate and brake with the flow of traffic, right down to a standstill. The system is optimised for motorway driving and requires you to have your hands on the steering wheel at all times.
Other ADAS technologies include adaptive cruise control, rear parking and 360-degree surround-view cameras, cross-traffic alert and pedestrian detection. The spec list goes on.
Small SUV: Toyota RAV4
The second-generation Toyota Safety Sense made its debut on the latest generation RAV4. The improved system features a single-lens camera and millimetre-wave radar, both with enhanced performance to expand the scope of hazard detection and functionality. The unit has also been made smaller, so the driver gains an even wider field of vision. The package includes upgraded versions of the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Road Sign Assist and Automatic High Beam. It also introduces Lane Tracing Assist, which provides more advanced driving support.
Sports car: Lexus RC F
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This luxury coupe’s razor-sharp aerodynamic profile gives it an edgy, extroverted road stance. It’s nippy, too. Out of town, the mid-sized rear-drive coupe fitted with a 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine sets pulses racing, accelerating from zero to 60 mph in a heartbeat. Coupled with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, it has smooth and powerful acceleration, with large amounts of torque available across the full spectrum of engine speeds.
In terms of ADAS, the RC F incorporates the automaker’s Safety System+ that comprises a pre-collision system designed to detect vehicles and pedestrians; dynamic radar cruise control; lane-keep assist with lane departure alert and a ‘sway warning function’; an automatic high beam system; and road sign assist. The sway warning function monitors the car’s position in its lane and the driver’s steering inputs. If it detects degrees of vehicle swaying, it will sound an alert and display a warning on the instrument cluster, recommending the driver takes a break. The combination of adaptive cruise control and lane tracing assist corresponds to Level 2 automated driver support.
Mid-size car: Kia Ceed
The introduction of the plug-in hybrid version of the Kia Ceed Sportswagon marks the next step in the Korean carmaker’s electrification strategy. It is manufactured at the brand’s European production facility in Žilina, Slovakia alongside the Ceed five-door hatchback, ProCeed five-door shooting brake, XCeed CUV and conventional petrol and diesel versions of the Ceed SW.
Standard ADAS technologies include high beam assist, driver attention warning, lane-keeping assist and forward collision warning with forward collision-avoidance assist, high beam assist and hill start assist control. A driver attention warning advises drivers to take a break if the system detects signs of fatigue.
Compact car: Ford Fiesta
The latest generation Ford Fiesta incorporates pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection emergency braking system, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot information system.
ADAS technologies are supported by two cameras, three radars and 12 ultrasonic sensors, which in combination can monitor 360 degrees around the vehicle and scan the road ahead up to a distance of 130 metres. It can also detect pedestrians who are in or near the road ahead, or who may cross the vehicle’s path; the brakes are automatically applied to avoid them if the driver does not respond to warnings.
Other technologies can monitor road signs to keep the driver up-to-date on speed limits and overtaking regulations to help avoid fines and penalties.
Sub-compact car: SEAT Mii
Launched in 2019, the SEAT Mii electric is the first all-electric vehicle from the Spanish brand. The Mii doesn’t offer a built-in touchscreen – not even as an option. Instead, it comes fitted with a smartphone dock located on top of the dash. While it may appear low-tech compared to its rivals, it does the job by allowing the driver to link their phone to the car via two apps: Mii Drive and SEAT Connect. The latter provides remote access and management of the vehicle, so drivers can review driving data, parking position, the vehicle’s status, including doors and lights, manage the charging process via the e-Manager and the ability to control air-conditioning remotely from the app. Standard ADAS equipment includes electronic stability control, hill hold control, lane assist and traffic sign recognition.
As the automotive industry shifts toward higher levels of driver autonomy, what are the opportunities for suppliers? Tamara Snow, Head of Research and Advanced Engineering, North America, Continental Automotive expects the autonomous mobility market will significantly grow in the next few years. She told Just Auto: “Just from 2018 to 2020, we received orders totalling more than €9 billion from car manufacturers worldwide. This shows that in the field of driver assistance and automated driving systems business we already have a strong position which we are expanding substantially while quickly positioning ourselves as a top player in the autonomous mobility market. We are strengthening our product portfolio continuously and we are developing new technologies to offer customers more solutions and services at the systems level. At the same time, we are more open to large-scale cooperation with technology partners and startup companies, like e.g., Apex.AI, AEye and Horizon Robotics.
“We offer leading technologies, such as radar, lidar and camera and offer full-stack automotive-grade systems for Level 2+ up to Level 4 automated and autonomous driving applications. As the degree of automation of vehicles will continue to increase in the coming years and autonomous driving will become suitable for mass use. From 2025, level 3 and level 4 systems will be available to the mass market at an affordable cost.”
Although a good proportion of the technology needed to operate self-driving cars has been developed, the laws that allow such vehicles on our roads are some way behind. But that’s another story.