ADAS: Accelerating the move to autonomous vehicles?

Siddartha Khastgir, Head of Verification and Validation, Intelligent Vehicles at WMG, reveals how the public views advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) — and if these technologies might help with the development of driverless vehicles. How were advanced driver-assistance systems first received by the public?

When first introduced in the mid to late 1990s, ADAS was largely given a positive reception because applications such as adaptive cruise control (ACC) and anti-lock braking (ABS) were marketed as important safety features — and safety always plays well with the public. But by the early 2000s, trust in ADAS had began to plummet. One reason for this is that the limitations of some ADAS features were not always made clear to drivers, who only discovered their shortcomings by using them. That stands to reason: if I think a system works all the time, but then it suddenly stops working, my trust in it will fall.

How is ADAS received — and used — today?

There is evidence to suggest that people want and are willing to pay for ADAS features; but there’s another piece of evidence which suggests they don’t use them all the time because they don’t fully trust them. That said, popular ADAS features include automated emergency braking (AEB) and electronic stability control (ESC), which are intermittent applications mandated through law in new cars. Indeed, buyers of new vehicles expect mandated ADAS to be included in their purchase.

What are the challenges ADAS systems present to the automotive industry?

One of the biggest is testing because it’s very important to ensure that the application is safe. There’s also the challenge of getting people to accept it and use it because, as human beings, we like to be fully in control of everything we do. There’s also a challenge with insurance, although more so for autonomous vehicles than ADAS. Namely, if there’s an accident when the car is in autonomous mode, whose fault will it be? That’s an area that’s still being worked on. As technology advances, a standard MOT procedure may not be relevant anymore; plus trainees and technicians in garages will need to be re-skilled. Academia and industry needs to focus on how to get supply chains ready for these changes. At WMG we’re doing a lot of work in this area with the WMG Degree Apprenticeship Centre which will be opening shortly.

Does the public’s reaction to ADAS indicate how it might greet the emergence of fully autonomous cars?

I think it does. At WMG we work on a concept called Informed Safety, which is about growing trust through knowledge. If manufacturers inform users about what ADAS can and — more importantly — cannot do, then acceptance of it will be much higher.

How might use of ADAS help with the development of autonomous systems going forward?

ADAS is a first step on the journey. Some aspects of ADAS are transferrable to autonomous vehicle technology, others need to be re-engineered. Still, the big difference between ADAS and fully autonomous vehicles is that, with the former, the user still has control. With the latter they’re giving up complete control. That’s a big, counterintuitive jump to make.