Top 5 Tech Trends in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) promise to enhance vehicle safety by helping to simplify the driving process, reducing sources of driver distraction and inattention that often lead to accidents. With ADAS support, drivers and their passengers can hope to find safer roadways, countering deadly trends in motor vehicle accidents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle accidents rank among the top two causes of accidental injury or death. Even for non-alcohol-impaired drivers, the risk of a crash rises significantly when drivers are even briefly distracted. In fact, the risk of accidents jumps for drivers who glance away from the forward roadway for more than two seconds. Even beyond its obvious distractions, cellphone use increases accident rates for drivers who seem to be watching the road ahead but exhibit "inattention blindness" and loss of reaction time as they focus on the conversation.
Delivering ADAS designs capable of addressing these problems requires a broad combination of features and capabilities built on advances in diverse technologies. For developers, the future of ADAS lies in five key trends: embedded vision, sensors, connectivity, automotive systems infrastructure and automotive human machine interface (HMI) design.
Automotive vision systems are increasingly essential for identifying and tracking potential hazards. Besides providing critical input for high-level warning functions such as lane drift or unobserved traffic, these systems provide the data needed to support a growing array of services including automatic parallel parking or traffic sign recognition for speed-change warning. Vision systems also provide the foundation for driver monitoring systems that warn when driver attention begins to wander from drowsiness or distraction.
The emergence of specialized computer-vision software, hardware and development systems has all but erased traditional challenges in creating these systems. For example, the Avnet Blackfin® Embedded Vision Starter Kit combines development software and debug tools with an evaluation board that includes Analog Devices’ specialized BF609 Blackfin vision processor, a camera and peripherals.
Beyond vision-based traffic-warning systems, ADAS requires an extensive set of sensors for monitoring the vehicle’s immediate surroundings and even drivers themselves. Sensors for light detection and ranging (LIDAR), infrared detection and radar offer powerful solutions both for adaptive cruise control (ACC), which respond to traffic changes, and for systems capable of maintaining safe distance during high-traffic stop-and-go driving.
Semiconductor manufacturers continue to deliver increasingly sophisticated ICs that integrate sensor-signal chains required for signal conditioning and processing. For example, designers can implement the core features of a LIDAR system by combining a laser with the Maxim Integrated MAX3806 optical-distance measurement IC and Maxim’s MAX1446 high-performance analog-to-digital converter.
Along with signal-chain integration, the trend toward enhanced sensor fusion combines the output of different types of sensors with additional information to provide more predictive types of warnings. For example, automotive systems designers are building systems able to predict a dangerous loss of friction between the road and the tire by combining sensor data from vehicle-acceleration sensors, tire-pressure sensors, anti-lock braking systems and electronic-stability control.
With the rapid growth in digital-data sources in vehicles, wireless networks are playing a growing role in both in-vehicle and external connectivity. Along with critical systems such as tire-pressure monitoring and anti-lock braking systems, wireless options provide greater flexibility for standard automotive communications protocols such as CAN, FlexRay and XCP, among others.
Besides eliminating wires and cables, the emergence of highly integrated wireless devices provides a flexible foundation for services able to help drivers stay informed about vehicle status, traffic conditions and alternative routes. Major new trends such as automated predictive maintenance systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) promise to link smart devices within vehicles with cloud-based applications to provide even more sophisticated services.
Automotive systems infrastructure
The rapid emergence of smart sensors and control systems in vehicles dictates a need for an improved systems foundation not only in ADAS architectures but also throughout vehicle systems design. With dozens of processors peppered throughout the vehicle, the need for a stable design platform becomes more important.
The emergence of safety functionality in real-time operating systems (RTOS) and supporting software tools provides automotive software architects and designers with the assurance of a proven software foundation. Today, engineers can find a growing list of RTOS, middleware and development tools designed to support the ISO 26262 international functional safety standard for road vehicles. In addition, industry standards such as AUTOSAR (Automotive Open System Architecture) provide designers with a common interface for linking diverse third-party software modules and applications within the vehicle.
Automotive HMI design
Even with improved vision systems, sensors, connectivity options and infrastructure, the success of ADAS ultimately lies in distraction-free methods of interacting with the driver. Advances in touchscreen technology help ensure easier interaction with passengers or with the driver when the vehicle is parked. However, for improving the driving process itself, perhaps the most promising trend lies in the application of advanced human machine interface (HMI) technologies to vehicular systems.
Touch-free HMI systems promise mechanisms for driver interaction without requiring drivers to move their hands from the steering wheel. Along with voice-operated systems, more precise driver monitoring systems using eye-tracking technologies continue to close the gap with traditional touch-based interfaces. Head-up displays (HUD) promise to help drivers maintain roadway focus, using imaging devices such as Texas Instruments’ digital light processing (DLP) chips to project high-contrast images.
ADAS promises to deliver capabilities and features needed to simplify the driving process and reduce vehicular accidents. Thanks to rapid advances in vision, sensors, connectivity, infrastructure and HMI technologies, automotive electronics designers will continue to find a growing list of cost-effective options for implementing ADAS designs.
Fig. 1: A rapid convergence in key technologies promises to simplify the driving process, eventually helping automotive systems designers distill complex information into easily understood head-up displays based on MEMS-based ICs such as Texas Instruments’ DLP devices. (Source: Texas Instruments)
Written By: Stephen Evanczuk
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