Automakers, suppliers put safety sensors in the spotlight

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published February 7, 2018

METRO DETROIT — Human judgment could become less and less dominant behind the wheel as automakers and suppliers take advantage of developing semiautonomous safety sensors and alerts, according to exhibitors at the January North American International Auto Show in Detroit. 

Advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, that contain semiautonomous safety features played a starring role at some of the auto show’s exhibits.

Andi Ripley, product specialist at the Toyota exhibit, listed off several prominent safety features that fit under the umbrella of the automaker’s Toyota Safety Sense package. One example is a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection that uses camera and radar components to watch out for pedestrians, alerting the driver with auditory and visual alerts if a person is in the vehicle’s path, she said.

“And if you don’t respond to those alerts, in some cases, the vehicle will brake for you,” she said.

Another feature, a lane departure alert with steering assist, will notice when a vehicle seems to be veering and will keep it inside the lane lines, she explained. Meanwhile, automatic high beams can shift to low beams if another car is drawing near. 

Ripley said another feature is dynamic radar cruise control.

“You set your predetermined length between you and vehicle in front of you,” she said. “As they slow down 1 mile per hour, you slow down 1 mile per hour, so you’re not guessing what they’re going.”

Ripley said the Toyota Safety Sense features are “standard safety equipment on many of our models.”

“We’re giving you more eyes on the road than ever before, more help on the road than ever before,” she said.  

Over at Denso’s exhibit, visual depictions of the auto supplier’s Millimeter-Wave Radar Sensor showed how vehicles could judge speed and distance of things that are ahead, sending that information to a pre-crash safety system.

According to Bill Foy, senior vice president of engineering at Denso, his company showed more autonomous or connected technology in its exhibit this year, including radar and camera technology. He added that its radar technology is becoming even more sensitive via “compressed sensing.”

“So these types of advances are going to make autonomous (technology) much more accurate and maybe with sensors that are not so expensive for the future,” he said.

Foy added that Denso’s safety sensors are already making their way into Toyota and Lexus ADAS systems, and it shouldn’t take long for some of Denso’s latest advances to appear on the roads.

 “I think in the next two years you’ll see additional items like what we’re showing here,” he said.

The trend toward more autonomous driving at the auto show comes as AAA reported a decline among American drivers who are wary about riding in a self-driving vehicle, from 78 percent in early 2017 to 63 percent more recently. 

AAA also said male drivers and millennials are the most enthusiastic about buying vehicles with semiautonomous technology. 

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