Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are here. Is Your Service Department Ready?

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By Ted Ings, Executive Director

Fully autonomous cars that whiz passengers from destination to destination aren’t here – yet.

But, already, there are advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that take duties from the human behind the wheel and hand them off to the vehicle. Such features aren’t decades away, either; they’re here right now, at your dealership. So, it’s time your staff got up to speed on this game-changing technology.

Understanding ADAS

If you’ve driven a new car lately, chances are, you’ve encountered one or more ADAS features. A few of the most common include automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, rear-view and surround view cameras and parking assist.

Automatic emergency braking

Automatic braking is designed to take over when preoccupied humans fail to respond to an emergency.

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Most systems use traditional sensors, radar, light detection and ranging (LIDAR) – or a combination of the three – to interpret the world around them. A dedicated control module analyzes the collected data, then shares it with other modules, such as the ABS control unit and PCM, over the data bus.


If a potential collision is detected, most systems will first try to warn the driver through audible or visual signals. If there’s no response, the brakes are applied automatically, and typically, engine throttle is reduced as well.

Blind Spot Monitoring

The days of craning your neck to see what’s in the opposite lane are waning. Now, with blind spot monitoring, drivers get an alert when there’s a vehicle outside their field of vision. An intensified warning is delivered if the driver activates the turn signal.

Most systems use radar, ultrasonic sensors or LIDAR to sense an adjacent vehicle. These sensors, or modules, then turn on the blind spot warning indicators in the side mirror (s). An alert may also be sent to the infotainment display.

Adaptive cruise control (ACC)

Cars with adaptive cruise control can determine their proximity to other vehicles, slow down and speed up accordingly. There’s no need for the driver to apply the brakes or toggle the cruise switch – the car adjusts to traffic by itself.

Each ACC system is slightly different, but generally, laser or radar sensors measure the distance between vehicles. Cameras may also be used. Information collected by these peripheral devices is sent to a dedicated control module. Then, a request is sent over the data network, instructing other modules, such as the ABS and PCM units, to apply the brakes and/or reduce throttle as necessary.

Park assist

There are two main types of park assist: passive and active. Both types generally use bumper-mounted ultrasonic sensors that emit radio waves, which reflect off other objects, to measure distance.

A passive system uses the ultrasonic sensor data to alert the driver when they’re about to back into something (or someone). Both audible and visual warnings are emitted, much like a backup system in a commercial vehicle.

Active assist, on the other hand, steers the vehicle into a spot without any human intervention. A dedicated control module analyzes sensor data, then shares it with other modules, such as the steering unit, over the data bus. Together, this collection of electronics can steer the vehicle into a spot. The driver, however, is still required to operate the brakes, throttle and gear selector.

Lane keep assist

We’ve all been in the car with someone who’s yammering on, not paying attention and drifting between lanes. Automakers came up with a way to address this scenario, and it’s called lane keeping assist.

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Most lane-keep assist systems use a camera, along with various sensors, to analyze both road markings and driver input. Information from these peripheral devices is sent to a dedicated control module.

When the vehicle veers out of its lane, the module will alert other modules, such as the radio, instrument cluster, and steering unit, over the data bus. These electronics work together to present the driver with visual and audible warnings and steer the car back into its lane if needed.

Rearview and surround view cameras

Since early 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required all new cars have a rearview camera. The technology is fairly straightforward: when the vehicle is put in reverse, a rear-mounted camera gets power from the backup circuit. A corresponding image is sent to the dashboard for the driver to view.


Surround view cameras are a bit more complicated. With this design, several wide-angle lens cameras are placed throughout the vehicle to gather a “bird’s eye view”. Images retried from the collection are condensed to create one 360° image that’s displayed to the driver.

Staying on top of emerging ADAS trends

It seems like just yesterday features like electronic throttle control and brake-by-wire first became available. Now, these technologies are able to work together to provide functions once considered impossible.

And progress isn’t slowing down. With each passing year, the human driver is phased out of the picture just a little more. It’s your job, as an automotive professional, to stay on top of emerging vehicle technologies, including those that are paving the way for the self-driving cars of the future.