Today's advanced driver assistance systems are highly valuable even if (and perhaps also because) their autonomy is incomplete.
In a couple of recent posts, I’ve reiterated the point that while the reality behind the promise of full vehicle autonomy may be far down the road (vehicle … road … get it? Sigh … ), today’s advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are still highly valuable with respect to preventing accidents and the like. Recent events have afforded the opportunity for me to put this perspective into personal practice.
My wife had long been the sole owner of a 2007 Land Rover LR3 HSE. We (she, mostly) periodically talked about replacing it with something newer, but we kept holding off … it was in great cosmetic condition and just kept running and running, not to mention that it was paid off and that insurance and registration fees were economical courtesy of its geriatric state.
Recently, however, it started showing evidence that it was nearing the “lemon” knee of its life cycle curve, courtesy of an increasing number of “check engine light” faults and the like. The kicker was when we learned that its dual catalytic converters were failing due to accumulated age and mileage … and to replace them “officially” (per Land Rover standards) would necessitate replacement of the entire exhaust system.
We decided to replace the LR3 while we could still get something for it in trade-in, and picked up a gently used (previously a dealer loaner vehicle, with less than 3,000 miles on it) 2018 Land Rover Discovery SE. It looks like this, although ours is “Fuji White” in color:
Since ours is the entry-level SE trim package, it doesn’t have all the “bells and whistles” (ADAS or otherwise) that come standard with the higher-end HSE and HSE Deluxe variants. Specifically, to the topic of this particular post, it’s absent the front grill-mounted camera that would enable a 360° overhead surround view around the car, along with semi-autonomous park assist, and other fancy features. Nonetheless, it still contains plenty of cameras (and other sensors), along with an abundance of capabilities supported by them.
There is, of course, the now-increasingly-standard rear-mounted camera that provides a clear view of the path behind the vehicle when backing out of the garage, into a parking space, and the like. It’s accompanied by cameras installed at each of the side mirrors, which implement the Blind Spot Assist feature to “alert you to obstacles in, or quickly approaching, your blind spot” and work in conjunction with the rear camera to implement Reverse Traffic Detection, which “warns you of vehicles, pedestrians or other hazards, approaching from either side of your vehicle.”
Although there isn’t a camera in the front grille of this particular Land Rover Discovery, there is one installed in the rear view mirror assembly and forward-facing. When my wife first showed me the vehicle’s Traffic Sign Recognition capabilities, I felt confident that they were implemented solely via GPS along with a database of the posted speed limits in various locations. Turns out, however, I’m wrong; the system is actually discerning road signs’ types and content as the vehicle passes them:
At minimum, it displays an image of the sign in the dashboard. You can optionally set the system to alert you when you exceed the speed limit (with 0, 5-MPH-over, and 10-MPH-over threshold options) and, via the Intelligent Speed Limiter option, it will even prevent you from speeding.
Conversely, another feature that I initially thought was camera-implemented ended up not being so, at least in the way that I’d envisioned. At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Jaguar Land Rover had announced (in partnership with Intel and Seeing Machines) a version of its Driver Monitor System that “uses attention-monitoring sensors in a vehicle’s dashboard to detect eye and facial movements, allowing it to identify if the driver has become inattentive, either due to drowsiness or distraction. It is so sophisticated it can understand the state of the driver in real world conditions, including bright sunlight and if the driver is wearing glasses or sunglasses.”
Our Land Rover Discovery includes something called Driver Condition Monitor, which I’d assumed was the same thing, although for the life of me I couldn’t find the camera(s) in the dashboard. This promo video doesn’t give any implementation details, but the video below provided more clues. What looks like is happening is that the side mirror-mount cameras (or perhaps just sensors mounted in the steering wheel itself, detecting inadvertent driver movement) are determining that the vehicle is drifting within (and across the markers of) its lane, indicative of driver inattention.
My wife’s not a fan of parallel parking (or more general backing up, for that matter) so the rear camera in conjunction with the augmented reality-implemented, console-displayed guidance lines quickly became invaluable. And the side-mounted cameras have already “saved our bacon” a few times in preventing collision-inducing lane changes and the like. How has your experience been with the elementary (or, depending on the car and options suite, more advanced) ADAS features in your modern automobile? Sound off in the comments.
—Brian Dipert is Editor-in-Chief of the Embedded Vision Alliance, and a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the company’s online newsletter.