Following the tragic death of an Ohio man who was killed while his Tesla Model S was in autopilot it is obvious autonomous cars are not ready for prime time. But they are getting closer every year. Many vehicles, luxury or otherwise, now come with the building blocks necessary for autonomous driving capability. In the video above we take a look at the technologies and give them a brief test in a Mercedes-Benz GLC300.
#3: Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)
The name says it all. Blind Spot Monitoring keeps track of vehicles that are lurking to the sides and slightly behind you. Properly adjusting your side mirrors can actually eliminate blind spots but most people prefer to watch the side of their own car. If you just move the side mirrors out until you can see the lanes on either side of you, blind spots become a thing of the past.
But I digress, this is not a lecture about mirror adjustment and BSM will only make my argument less relevant. Most systems work by first giving the driver a visual indication that an object is in their blind spot. If the driver uses a turn signal to indicate a turn the system often gives an audible warning.
#2 Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
Perhaps the most useful of the three features here, ACC allows a driver to set a speed and then focus on steering. The system will brake if the vehicle in front slows down and then resume the predetermined speed as the situation allows. The most advanced systems can bring a vehicle to a dead stop if necessary. Many, though, will warn the driver that human interaction is required if it is unable to safely brake as needed.
#1 Lane Keep Assist (LKA)
Not to be confused with Lane Departure Warning – which is exactly what it sounds like – Lane Keep Assist systems usually monitor lines in the road and will actively steer a car back towards the center of the lane if it notices too much drifting towards one side or the other. LKA is often tied into Lane Departure Warning to work as a multi-tiered approach to keep drivers in their lanes.
The combination of the three systems above should serve as the foundation on which to develop fully autonomous cars. They can “see” other cars via BSM, control the accelerator and brakes via ACC, and steer as needed with LKA. The technologies certainly have their limitations. For example, for Lane Keep Assist to work, lane lines must be visible and well defined. If there’s some mud or dirt on the road, you may as well forget about it. It also confuses these systems if a lane opens up into an exit lane. Don’t worry, we are still a ways off until driving becomes obsolete but it’s certainly coming.
Check out the video at the top of the page to see these systems in action.