As the reality of autonomous cars gets closer every day, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are bridging the gap between traditional cars and the cars of tomorrow. Slowly but surely, cars are taking on more tasks by themselves and increasing the safety of drivers, passengers and everyone else on the road. Across the mobility supply chain, we’re seeing developments in intelligent technology and supporting software that will form the foundations of fully autonomous cars.
The World Health Organization reports that more than 1 million people are killed in traffic accidents around the world each year, and up to 50 million people are injured or disabled. Furthermore, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 94 percent of all U.S. traffic accidents are caused by human error. Of these, the greatest percentage is caused by recognition errors, followed by decision errors, performance errors, non-performance errors and other human-related errors.
ADAS technologies have a major role to play in reducing these human-related errors and increasing safety—a primary focus across the automotive and transportation industries. In a 2018 survey sponsored by Jabil, a third of surveyed automotive decision-makers listed increased safety needs as one of the top three drivers of technology innovation in the industry. This consideration ranked ahead of design capabilities, autonomous vehicles, consumer demands, better connectivity, government regulations, electrification and price decreases. Furthermore, 36 percent of participants noted that advanced driver assistance systems are a key element in their companies’ automotive visions.
Driver assistance systems features such as blind-spot monitors, tire-pressure monitors, adaptive cruise control, lane-tracing assist, road-sign assist, automatic high beams and more are already offered by some automakers as standard features, or as upgrade packages.
We’re already seeing a positive trend that could be linked to some of these advanced driver assistance systems features. The NHTSA reports that the highway fatality rate dropped by 1.8 percent between 2016 and 2017, following years of increases. However, accidents do still happen because of distracted, reckless or impaired driving. And there’s a lot more technology in development that will enable the industry to continue increasing safety for everyone on the road.
At Jabil, we’re seeing many of our customers work on sensor-fusion – or the use of multiple types of sensor for the same application. Typically, one type of sensor cannot safely monitor the conditions around a car in all situations. For example, cameras may not be able to accurately recognize other objects in low-visibility conditions, such as darkness, fog or even blinding light.
By combining multiple sensor types, we can create a ‘redundant monitoring system’ – where different types of sensors are used for the same application, to ensure the right information is always getting to the vehicle, whatever the road conditions. These systems include a variety of sensors including cameras, light detection and ranging (LiDAR), radar and driver monitoring systems.
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Each automaker will take its own approach. Some may develop more LiDAR-centric systems with backup from cameras, while others will be more camera-focused with backup from LiDAR or radar. For example, one potential system called the emergency stop assistant is being developed by BMW Group Research and Technology. In the case where a driver becomes incapacitated due to a medical emergency, the system can safely drive the vehicle in a highly automated driving mode onto the emergency lane. Such a system, however, requires surround environment perception in order to complete its tasks safely and accurately.
Beyond safety, driver assistance systems could unlock other benefits including traffic awareness, decreased insurance premiums, increased fuel efficiency and infrastructure use efficiencies. With fewer accidents on the road, there also will be fewer traffic jams related to those accidents. As ADAS and connectivity features begin collaborating, vehicles will naturally communicate with each other, making it easier to navigate roads (and perhaps lowering the stress-levels on the road, in doing so). With fewer traffic jams and more efficient driving experiences, it is likely that repair and maintenance costs will decrease, leading to lower insurance premiums. Inherently, this will also make way for increased fuel efficiency.
As vehicle ownership trends change and we rely less on driving, there are infrastructure efficiencies to expect as well. For example, once fully autonomous vehicles are available, it will be likely that there will be fewer vehicles on the road. As more of the cars on the road are utilized more effectively, we won’t need as many parking spaces either.
In addition, the connectivity features of ADAS enable ‘platooning’. This driving tactic, most commonly used with trucks or military vehicles, uses connectivity technology and ADAS to direct trucks as they drive. The system guides trucks to keep a set, close distance between each other for efficiency. The lead vehicle primarily interacts with other cars on the road, and the other trucks in the platoon follow suit with little to no action from the other drivers. For example, the vehicles can accelerate and brake simultaneously, making roads more efficient and removing the need for “reaction time.” Enabling platooning would mean equipping our roads and infrastructure with technologies to enable an automated highway system.
The European Automobile Manufacturers Association reports that platooning can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 16 percent from trailing vehicles and as much as 8 percent from the lead vehicle. The practice also optimizes transportation by delivering goods faster and reducing traffic jams, it says. In addition, because the system controls the truck’s braking, drivers in trailing trucks can handle administrative tasks while the truck travels, it notes.
From an acceptance perspective, ADAS also helps consumers become accustomed to allowing machines to do work for them. Many ADAS features help drivers better monitor their vehicles and the environments around them. In turn, this teaches humans to trust cars more and ultimately rely on vehicle technology to help them make good driving decisions. According to research from Aptiv and the Boston Consulting Group, more and more people are receptive to the thought of owning an autonomous vehicle. How will we get to trust in self-driving technology? Through existing ADAS capabilities. Consumers in the US, China and Germany are most familiar with ADAS features like “blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning systems and parking assistance features,” the study states. Through increased trust in these types of capabilities, consumers will feel more comfortable will fully autonomous vehicles as well.
Still, it will take at least a few more years before both society and the automotive industry are ready for the mass adoption of autonomous cars. In a recent visit to Germany, I had the opportunity to test-drive a car fitted with an ADAS enhancement that maneuvers lane changes without a driver holding on to the steering wheel. While the technology certainly is cool, as a passenger, it was a bit unnerving to ride in a car that was not totally controlled by a human. Plus, the technology is not quite perfect yet, so the test car did erroneously drift out of its lane a few times.
In order to effectively bridge from basic driver assistance systems to fully autonomous cars, sensor technologies need to be more robust and able to accurately and reliably handle complex tasks. Once they are capable of this, they also need to be available at a price point OEMs and customers can afford. For example, LiDAR systems cost tens of thousands of dollars now, though we are working to bring that price point below $500.
But it’s not just the technology that has to evolve; major updates (and upgrades) need to be made in infrastructure, regulations, insurance models and more to accelerate ADAS adoption.
Finally, the automotive industry will need to update its approach to developing new automotive technology and new vehicle models. Because autonomous cars could potentially be used constantly, especially if multiple people share the same car and use it as a chauffeur, the vehicles will have shorter lifespans. For traditional vehicles, IHS Markit reports that the average age of a car in the United States is nearly 12 years old. The firm projects that in 2021 there will be more than 20 million vehicles on US roads that are more than 25 years old. By comparison, continuously operated autonomous cars may need to be replaced every three or four years. Plus, because technology keeps changing, the in-car technology will quickly become outdated, and the cars will need frequent updates.
This means that automakers will have to develop and produce new vehicles faster than ever. Right now, automotive OEMs already are operating on short product development lifecycles, sometimes as short as a year or less. So, the industry needs to find ways to bring technology to market faster, while still complying with the latest safety regulations.
Collaboration is the solution. The automotive industry is one known for its level of collaboration—where OEMs regularly partner with technology and software companies to build new ADAS functions now and autonomous systems in the future. In addition, we’ve seen increased collaboration between some of the largest players in the industry to solve existing problems. Overall, the industry can always benefit from increased collaboration with strategic partners, allowing all the participants to do what they do best to move the industry forward. These collaborations can allow each partner to focus on the parts of a car they know best and then contribute that part to a whole, efficient, safe vehicle.
About two-thirds of Jabil survey respondents said that their companies design driver assistance systems in house. Of those respondents, about 70 percent plan to outsource the function within the next five years. Similarly, 64 percent of respondents said they manufacture ADAS in-house, but about 20 percent of these OEMs plan to outsource the function within the next five years.
Soon, the seemingly futuristic ADAS capabilities will become standard and eventually become the minimum expectations for vehicles. Regardless, there is still work to be done on the technology, infrastructure and regulations to address our changing driving experiences. With collaborations within and outside of the industry, automakers are ready for the challenge.
Insights from 126 automotive OE decision-makers on technology adoption, opportunities and challenges.