Brian Watson, ATSSA's Director of New Programs
Reaching Zero Crashes, A Dialogue on the Role of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, a one day event held by the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington D.C., brought together transportation safety leaders from across the country. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) have been around for decades starting with antilock brakes, and have now evolved to include automatic braking systems. The newest ADAS include blind spot detection, adaptive headlights, frontal collision warnings, driver alert control, and adaptive cruise control among others. The commonality that all these systems share is increased roadway safety for all road users.
While the advanced safety levels cannot be denied, there are some issues with these ADAS, such as the inconsistencies between the technologies used by auto manufacturers and human factor behaviors while using these systems. In many cases, the vehicle manufacturers have different ADAS technologies in their vehicles which may cause different behaviors by the vehicle, such as detection distances and stopping times. There are no industry standards for auto manufacturers to follow yet which leads to inconsistencies of the ADAS technologies. This can be confusing to drivers who may drive a new car and they are unaware of the automobile’s system capabilities. Standardization of the ADAS technologies, auto dealer, and driver education are a few ways that this technology can be used more effectively to keep our roads and roadway workers safe.
When the vehicle begins to make decisions for the driver, such as braking, human behaviors may begin to change. For instance, there is concern that the driver may become over-dependent on the systems and potentially lose focus on the road. Haptic, audio and visual warnings assist with improving human reactions, however, these systems can potentially annoy drivers with the various beeps and vibrations coming from the vehicle. These annoyances, coupled with a system that may notify the driver too far in advance of a hazard, may increase the tendency of the driver to ignore the safety systems altogether. Auto manufacturers, research organizations, and software providers of these systems need more information on human factors in order to create systems that optimize the technology and prevent counter-productive behaviors.
All of these factors with ADAS play a major role in roadway safety, but more action is needed to improve crash and fatality rates overall. Driver education and outreach, combined with systems standardization and improvement based off human factors research, will help ensure the ADAS technologies will be designed to their optimal level.