Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

Increasing Situational Awareness to Decrease Danger

Automotive safety technology is pretty easy to wrap your head around, but advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are a little harder to pin down. At this point, the debate over whether anti-lock brakes are really necessary is pretty much nonexistent, but many technologies classified as ADAS are still seen as luxuries or even amusing curiosities.

The issue is that advanced driver assistance systems are systems and features that provide a driver with essential information, automate difficult or repetitive tasks, with the goal of engendering an overall increase in car safety for everyone on the road. Since these systems are so varied, it isn't always easy to see how some of them actually relate to safety.

Some advanced driver assistance systems have been around for a long time, and they have already proven time and time again to result in an improved driving experience or better overall road safety. GPS navigation, for example, has become increasingly common in OEM infotainment systems since first being introduced in the 1990s. You won't find a lot of drivers longing for the days of paper maps, but other advanced driver technologies seem a little more esoteric.

Many advanced driver assistance systems are right on the bleeding edge of emerging automotive technologies, and the jury is actually still out on some of them. Some of these systems will have the staying power to stick around, and you can expect to see at least a few of them in your next car. Others may fizzle and disappear or be replaced by better implementations of the same basic idea. Since ADAS rely on electronics and often include firmware elements, the development of these cutting-edge systems is governed by international safety standards like IEC-61508 and ISO-26262.

Advanced driver assistance systems are tweaked every year, but here are thirteen different options that you might want to check out the next time you're in the market for a new car.

Adaptive Cruise Control

Highway in black and white

Radcliffe Dacanay/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

This advanced driver assistance technology is especially useful on the highway, where drivers otherwise have to constantly monitor their cruise control systems for safety reasons. With advanced cruise control, a vehicle will automatically slow down or speed up in response to the actions of the car or truck in front of it. Most of these systems automatically shut off below a certain speed threshold, but others can even be used in stop and go traffic.

Adaptive Light Control

Adaptive car headlights

Brett Levin/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Adaptive light control systems are designed to help drivers see better and further in the darkness. This advanced driver assistance technology allows the headlights to swivel and rotates to better illuminate the roadway through corners and in other circumstances.

Automatic Braking

Automatic braking

Bryn Pinzgauer/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Automatic braking is a pre-crash technology that is designed to reduce the severity of high-speed collisions in the event of a lapse of driver attention. While some automatic braking systems can actually prevent collisions, they’re typically meant to slow the vehicle to the point where less damage is caused and fatalities are unlikely.

Automatic Parking

Car parallel parking and riding onto curb

thienzieyung/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Automatic parking systems vary from one OEM to another, but most of them are designed to help a driver parallel park. Some of these systems can actually perform the entire job automatically, and others simply provide advice so that the driver knows when to turn the steering wheel and when to stop.

Blind Spot Detection

Car windshield

bluematrix/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Blind spot detection systems use a variety of sensors to provide a driver with vital information that would be difficult or impossible to come by through any other means. Some of these systems will sound an alarm if they sense the presence of an object within a blind spot, and others include cameras that can transmit an image to the head unit or another monitor.

Collision Avoidance Systems

Drivers looking at car accident damage

 Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Collision avoidance systems use a variety of sensors to determine whether a vehicle is in danger of colliding with another object. These systems can typically sense the proximity of other vehicles, pedestrians, animals, and various roadway obstructions. When the vehicle is in danger of colliding with another object, the collision avoidance system will warn the driver. Some of these systems can also take other preventive actions, such as pre-charging the brakes or apply tension to the seat belts.

Driver Drowsiness Detection

Driver falling asleep

Martin Novak/Getty Images

Driver drowsiness or awareness detection systems use a number of different means to determine if a driver’s attention is starting to wander. Some of these systems look for the driver’s head to nod in a telltale motion that indicates sleepiness, and others use technology similar to lane detection warning systems.

GPS Navigation

GPS system in car

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images 

GPS navigation systems effectively replace bulky, cumbersome paper maps. These devices are often capable of providing vocal directions as well, which saves the driver from having to actually look at the screen. Some GPS navigation systems also provide live traffic data, which drivers previously had to obtain by listening to news radio stations.

Hill Descent Control

Aerial view on famous road Passo Stelvio in the Alps

 i-Stockr/Getty Images

Hill descent control is an advanced driver assistance technology that makes it easier to descend steep inclines. These systems typically work by activating the brakes to automatically slow the vehicle, which works through the same basic mechanism that allows ABS, TCS, and other technologies to function. Some hill descent control systems allow the speed to be modified via the cruise control system, and they can typically be overridden by pressing either the brake or the accelerator.

Intelligent Speed Adaptation

Speed Limit 40 sign

Image Source/Getty Images

This advanced driver assistance system depends on a variety of information to help a driver maintain a legal speed. Since these systems monitor the current speed and compare it with the local speed limit, they only function in certain areas.

Lane Departure Warning Systems

Lane keep assist button in car

Marin Tomas/Getty Images 

Lane departure warning systems use a variety of sensors to make sure that a vehicle doesn’t leave its lane accidentally. If the system determines that the vehicle is drifting, it will sound an alarm so that the driver can take corrective action in time to avoid hitting another car or running off the road. Lane-keeping assistance systems go a step further and are actually capable of taking small corrective actions without any driver input.

Night Vision

Person standing on the road at night

Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Night vision systems allow drivers to see things that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to make out at night. There are a number of different implementations, all of which can be broken down into the categories of active and passive. Active night vision systems project infrared light, and passive systems rely on the thermal energy that emanates from cars, animals, and other objects.

Tire Pressure Monitoring

Flat tire

Laura/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Tire pressure monitoring systems provide the driver with information about the inflation level of each tire. Since the only other way to find out tire pressure involves getting out of the car, getting down on the ground, and physically checking each tire with a gauge, this represents a huge increase in convenience.