Known as advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, safety sensors and driving systems are becoming very common place in new cars. However, the question that is on many people’s minds is whether these systems are worth their money. Do they actually improve drivers’ performance on the road or not. If one was to ask the car manufacturers and makers of ADAS equipment, the answer would be a resounding yes. Systems like frontal collision alerts, lane drifting alarms, rearview cameras, drowsiness detection, night vision enhancement, automatic braking assistance and more all come into play to anticipate and think faster than the human driver, preventing human error versus enhancing it. Many are adaptions from what has existed in planes and jets as well as boats for years, now modified to work in land vehicles.
Car brands are not ignorant to the benefits of ADAS equipment. In fact, there has been a wholesale acceptance of these new features in the last five years in the standard car package offerings versus the option list or extras. Each new sensor, alarm and mini-radar becomes another marketing edge on the competition, which of course is causing all the options and alternatives to include the latest gizmo and system possible within cost combinations and what the market will pay for. The safety trend started with luxury cars and big European names such as Volvo and BMW, but the ADAS packages have quickly spread to even the most compact and economic cars made. In short, ADAS passive systems are becoming as standard and commonplace as wheels on a car.
The actual safety process is run by computers, of course, with mini-processors all supported by the car’s main motherboard and PCU. The combination allows the two components working together to identify the presence of predetermined risks (objects in the path of travel for example), determine the correct pre-coded solution, and trigger the appropriate response all within micro-seconds faster than the human brain does the same three steps normally. In many cases the ADAS equipment senses triggers that the average human driver fails to pick up altogether when driving in the dark or in inclement weather conditions. These systems are also adaptive in many cases and the latest models, so they adjust and improve with use from the particular driver and driving style as well. The data is saved in memory chips and applied again and again in new calculations by the processor. All of this again is in theory a huge leap in driver’s safety, and many would attest it is true anecdotally. But does the safety ring true for everyone hands down?
The risk or vulnerability of ADAS equipment is their very strength, however – the computer. At the end of the day, the computer is fallible, a human-made construct. It can only work as good as the power source, the circuitry, and the stable working environment. When those factors are compromised, the computer fails, which then leaves the driver at the mercy of basic mechanics and momentum. In most cases and cars so far this has not been a problem. However, a few cars malfunction here and there, always reminding us that even the best car computer systems are imperfect, a built-in obsolescence.
There is no question that part for part, system for system, the modern car today is a far safer vehicle than it was twenty or even ten years ago. However, perfection is something that still eludes us, no matter how many safety sensors are put on a car. At the end of the day, the driver’s skill and experience still matters, being the one controllable factor everyone can influence and make a difference with. Traffic schools, or defensive driving courses are available to you to improve your defensive driving skills or want to earn a discount on your car insurance. Further, if you’ve received a traffic ticket, safety sensors won’t make it go away, but your state’s county traffic court may allow you to complete traffic school to dismiss the citation and avoid having points added to your driving record. And, if you decide to enroll in traffic school voluntarily, your car insurance provider may award you with a safe driver discount.