Sunday, October 10, 2021

It's a Possible Collision-Free Society with the Latest Safety Features Technology | Monchster Chronicles

Subaru Eyesight's two-camera system has depth perception.


Text and Photos by Monch Henares


Technological Breakthroughs


Safety, Safety, Safety.  Automobiles are extremely safer than cars manufactured decades ago, thanks to technological advances in artificial intelligence and electronics. 


From the mandating of seatbelts, safety glass, electronic stability control, latch child safety seat systems, and front airbags in the past, we will now see Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard equipment on all automobile segments by the 3rd quarter of 2022.


Research shows AEB reduces the risk and severity of crashes by recognizing the dangers ahead and automatically braking for you before you even have the time to process and react. It also has the potential to reduce road trauma.


Honda Sensing's Radar below the front bumper


AEB uses scanners, sensors, radars, lasers, and cameras to screen for potential crashes and intervene if you don't respond. Some systems include flashing lights, audible signals, as well as varying levels of braking intervention.


It was only available on luxury and sports cars in the past, but this super-advanced technology is now affordable and available to the average consumer.


Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)


You can probably remember a time when stepping hard on the brakes earlier would have made a big difference. A split second or a few meters can turn an ordinary drive into a headache—or worse, a nightmare. Whether by unavoidable circumstances or momentary lapses in focus (ex. cellphone use and texting), collisions happen. To change that, Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) also known as Autonomous Emergency Braking is being mandated across all vehicle segments.

AEB is an active safety system that activates a car's brakes when a potential collision is detected. As its name suggests, it works automatically, without the driver actually touching the brake pedal. It can also increase braking force if the driver is applying the brakes, but not enough to prevent a collision. 


Your car suddenly stopping on its own can be startling. As such,  AEB is typically coupled with the Pre-Collision Throttle Management System (PCTMS) and the Forward Collision Warning (FCW). The PTMS will reduce the power of the engine, while the Forward FCW often indicated by a sound, visible flashing signal, or through tactile feedback from the steering wheel alerts you to the stopped vehicle in your path. If you don’t take action quickly enough, the AEB system will engage and try to prevent a collision with the vehicle ahead. In most vehicles, FCW activates a moment before AEB. This lets the driver know a collision is imminent, and it gives them a chance to react and press the brakes. If insufficient action is taken, AEB then intervenes. 


All AEB systems detect vehicles, and many can sense pedestrians and cyclists. The purpose of AEB is to mitigate crashes by initiating braking when hazardous conditions arise or if the driver brakes insufficiently.


Some vehicles use radar sensors mounted within the front grille, bumper, or air vents. Others rely on one camera or two cameras (Subaru's Eyesight System) which are usually installed inside the windshield behind the rearview mirror area. Some use both. Whatever the detection method, software constantly calculates crash potential based on sensor data. If specific parameters are met, the software triggers FCW and AEB.


For example, the cameras can see what a driver might not. Let’s say you’re sitting at a traffic light waiting to turn right. The vehicle ahead accelerates and starts to turn. You, in the following vehicle, turn your head left to look for approaching traffic as you pull forward. At the same time, the vehicle ahead suddenly and unexpectedly stops without you realizing it. The AEB will save you from an unnecessary and costly fender bender.



Different Trademarks, Same Technology

AEB, PCTMS, and FCW are all part of a larger set of safety features now offered on regular-priced cars. Every car brand has its own registered name for its safety feature suite. Honda Sensing, Subaru Eyesight,  Ford Co-Pilot360, Toyota Safety Sense, and KIA Highway Driving Assist to name a few. All of them have their own unique name, but all of them strive for one common goal, semi-autonomous driving and road safety.


Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)


The Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) is perfect for long drives as it lessens your fatigue by maintaining the distance based on the car in front of you, braking and accelerating as needed; while the Low-Speed Follow (LSF) helps make it easier to drive during stop-and-go traffic. Adaptive Cruise Control systems from other cars such as the Ford Everest deactivates once the vehicle goes below a certain speed, while Subaru EyeSight which is best for stop-and-go traffic is kept activated even down to a full stop. 


This combination of cameras, radar, and sensors monitor traffic conditions ahead identify lane markings, and recognize traffic signs, in turn, adjusting or activating the Safety Suite's functions as is necessary. Some can warn you if you’re swaying out of your lane and optimize cruise control.



Lead Car Departure Notification (LCDN) system keeps you informed by alerting you when the car in front of you has moved ahead from a standstill.


Road Departure Mitigation


Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) helps you avoid collision by providing audible, visual, and tactile feedback warning whenever your car swerves to the other lane without the proper use of signal lights. Working together with the Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS) which scans the road ahead, both systems will steer and keep your vehicle at the center of the visible road lanes and in the best driving position as it guides you to follow the flow of the road. Some systems are even smart enough to alert you if it senses your hands are off the steering wheel.





Blind-Spot Monitoring


This specific driving safety system uses sensors located on the rear bumper and side mirrors. Working with your turn signals, they monitor the road to your sides and notify the driver with an audible warning and light signal that will appear on the side mirror or windshield frame if another vehicle has appeared within your blind spot or if another vehicle has switched into an adjacent lane and is at risk of a collision. They are optimized to work at highway speeds. 


Honda system uses a camera that shows the image on the infotainment screen when activated.


More Safety Features Coming


Auto High-Beam (AHB) Using a single camera, this system allows you to automatically turn on the high beams when there are no other vehicles ahead and lower your beam appropriately when encountering oncoming traffic.


Reverse Automatic Emergency Braking


Do you ever wish it was impossible to reverse into things while parking? Reverse Automatic Braking (RAB) is making it a reality. This system clamps the brakes when a rear collision is detected, be it with a parked car, garage wall, or another obstacle. RAB is meant more as a convenience than a safety enhancement; it helps avoid damage caused by low-speed parking impacts. Some car brands combine it with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA), which detects via a sonar, vehicles passing behind when you're reversing. If not properly calibrated, however, a reverse automatic emergency braking system can also be a hassle when parallel parking, if it's too sensitive.


Pros


Is it effective? Yes, it helps avoid car crashes or lessens the severity of the impact for an inevitable one. Some studies show its effectiveness 85% of the time. 


Some drivers prefer to be in full control. Most vehicles equipped with active safety and driver-assist systems like AEB allow them to be turned off. Some allow a degree of personalization, like changing how sensitive AEB is, when and how FCW activates, or how far ahead it scans for obstacles. Others leave it always on and ready to respond, just in case the driver isn't.


The safety suites are becoming more affordable, thus being standard safety and driving-aide features on most cars today.


Cons


Condensation or dirt on the upper windshield will surely block the camera's view, thus making the system disable itself. 


When turning sharp corners and driving after dark, the automatic emergency braking systems were found to be completely ineffective.


However, there are some other AEB cons to consider. One is the potential for error. A "false positive" may slam on the brakes unnecessarily because the vehicle’s computer got confused by a non-threatening object like an overhead sign or a shadow triggering the brakes, causing undue panic and increasing the possibility of a rear-end collision with a driver behind you. Conversely, a fault within an AEB system may go undetected and could cause it to not function at the exact moment it's needed. 


Another arguable AEB con is drivers can be lulled into a false sense of security if they become over-reliant or complacent on such systems.


The Future


Regulators have been pushing such technologies as a way to reduce traffic fatalities. Nearly all automakers have pledged to make Automatic Emergency Braking standard across their lineups by the 3rd quarter of 2022.


If avoiding costly or dangerous car crashes is important to you, AEB should be, as well. It's an important feature that even the most tuned-in drivers can appreciate. It's a helpful backup in unpredictable traffic conditions. Some automakers charge extra for AEB, but its cost seems worth it against the financial or wellbeing expenditures a crash could cause. The good news is that AEB is becoming standard equipment on an increasing number of vehicles.


Some AEB systems only work for vehicles but not pedestrians. That's becoming less common as technology improves and sensors are becoming more finely tuned to interpret whatever obstacles may be ahead. 


Every automaker now offers some sort of AEB system, but none suggests it's a substitute for remaining alert at the wheel. The technology is not perfect or advanced enough to detect and mitigate every potential impact. Nonetheless, it's proven to be a significant safety benefit. Until fully autonomous vehicles arrive, there won't be a substitute for paying full attention to the road ahead. But AEB really works in those moments when a split second or a few meters make all the difference.


Until autonomous-driven cars and their infrastructure are perfected, High-tech Electronic Safety Features will not replace the driver. A collision-free society is around the corner, but it is important that you still give your full attention and concentration to the driving task ahead. 

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Monch "Monchster" Henares is an award-winning automotive journalist.  He is the founder of MonchsterChronicles.com, which ranks No. 6 in the TOP TEN Car Blogs of the Philippines

He is also a tech specialist, inventor, and automotive engineer. He managed the motor pool for the largest limousine company in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. He is now based in the Philippines, and together with his partner, Arabelle Jimenez, they co-founded motourismo.ph. Monch is currently the President of BuildMeUp Corp, a digital media company.

You may e-mail him at monchnrs@gmail.com
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Monchster Chronicles ranks no. 6 in the Philippines Top 10 Car Blogs, News Websites to Follow in 2021.

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