Telematics and ADAS: Ready for take off

Susan Kuchinskas explores why the market for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) may finally be ready for prime time.

Drivers don't necessarily know how to drive. The 1.2 million annual traffic accident deaths each year attest to that.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which can help prevent injury, death, and property damage, are already available.

But now the time may be ripe for them to take off.

The most common ADAS technologies are lane departure warning and/or prevention, forward collision warning, side view assistance (also known as blind spot detection), and adaptive headlights.

There's a huge upside from ADAS for drivers and for society: almost two million crashes a year in the United States alone could be prevented by these safety features, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Despite this impressive statistic, ADAS has seen little take-up in the United States or Europe.

ADAS heats up

Of the 2010 models in these regions, only 6 percent of cars in the EU and 4 percent in the US hit the road with some sort of safety tech, according to Continental.

While ADAS technology has been around for a while, it’s just starting to heat up, according to Jeremy Carlson, ADAS technology researcher for iSuppli.

That's the result of product lifecycles that are finally getting shorter as well as advances in radar technology.

Other factors, he says, are falling hardware prices and increased functionality: "The newest systems are pretty intuitive and take some of the confusion out of it."

With Europe's tighter parking spaces and narrower roads, it's not surprising that there are some ADAS features available there but not in the US.

For example, Audi's Park-Lenk Assistent and Ford's Active Park Assist are already saving fenders in Germany.

Regulatory pressure

Pressure from regulators may help push ADAS into the market.

The European Road Safety Action Program had set a goal of reducing road fatalities in Europe by at least 50 percent by 2010.

Accidents in the EU are certainly down, and the initiative demonstrates that public policy can influence road safety.

"The EU in particular has been heavy on field testing, gathering real-time data on systems like forward collision warning, and trying to gain some momentum for mandates for forward collision warnings," Carlson says.

In the US, the National Transportation Safety Board has been lobbying to ban the use of in-car applications.

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