Just a few years ago, the thought of having a car do the work for you was still more hopeful than reality. That didn’t stop sci-fi movies from showing us what would be possible. Flying cars. Cars that drive themselves. Cars that did everything for you.
While we might not be able to kick back in the backseat and get work done on the way to our jobs, we have come a long way with technology. Today’s car manufacturers are competing, trying to be first to market with all kinds of modern tools that make driving safer and easier.
Most new cars come equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). They add to the complexity of how your car runs, and more importantly, to the ongoing maintenance of your vehicle.
What is ADAS?
ADAS – advanced driver-assistance systems – are technological features designed to increase safety and drivability of your vehicle. When properly designed, these systems are installed to work together with the driver to improve functionality, and increase the ability to react to dangers on the road.
Safety is key. ADAS is designed to provide warnings of potential dangers, automate portions of certain aspects of driving, and give drivers ample time to react and safely gain control over the vehicle.
Some are built standard into a vehicle in production, while others are added aftermarket, allowing consumers to personalize based on their preferences and needs.
How does ADAS work?
ADAS is the result of years – decades -of safety improvements. Over time, manufacturers have created things like three-point seatbelts, shatterproof glass, airbags, and more to make the driving experience safer, minimize injury, and reduce risk for all on the road. ADAS takes it a step farther by using three advanced technologies to keep a car safe as it moves about.
- Ultrasound tracks the immediate space around the vehicle.
- Cameras provide surround view and offer things like park assist.
- Radar, sensors, lidar, and other technology, can physically respond faster than a driver, creating warning systems that potentially alert dangers.
Some of the most common ADAS applications include:
- Adaptive cruise control (ACC) – allowing you to maintain your speed on long stretches of road.
- Adaptive light control – adapts the exterior lights to the conditions of the road.
- Automatic parking – uses sensors and cameras to avoid blind spots when parking.
- Navigation system – provides on-screen instructions and prompts to help you follow directions on your route.
- Night vision – helps you see things that might otherwise be difficult to see. Uses both infrared and thermal energy to help you avoid animals, cars, and other objects.
- Automatic emergency braking – helps you avoid danger by breaking as necessary.
- Driver drowsiness detection – uses sensors to detect driver’s attention and alerts using warning signals as necessary.
Does your car have ADAS?
ADAS is not the same as having autonomous driving. Many cars today have a variety of features, including advanced driver-assistance systems. If you’re not sure what ADAS your car comes equipped with, there are a few ways to check.
Start with your owner’s manual. It might be collecting dust in your glove compartment, yet this guide is one of the most important indicators that came with your car. It can guide you to all kinds of information, including knowing what systems you have, and how to take care of them throughout the life of the vehicle.
Walk around your vehicle. Sometimes you can tell what ADAS systems you have simply by walking around your car. Check places like the tailgate, the side mirrors, rearview mirror, and front bumper. Do you see tiny cameras? That’s a sign of an ADAS system.
Talk with your mechanic. The next time you drop off your car, talk about which systems you have in place. We can help point them out, and provide you with proper maintenance schedules for them.
Scheduling a vehicle alignment
As a driver, you’re probably familiar with alignments. A wheel alignment is a computerized process that calibrates and aligns all four wheels to ensure it drives straight. Often, these aren’t noticeable adjustments. Instead, technicians use sensitive equipment to ensure each wheel angle is adjusted to match manufacturer’s specifications. If you continue to drive with improper alignment, it can wear your tires faster, and also decrease overall safety while you drive. If you want to prolong the life of your vehicle, getting proper maintenance ensures everything is working correctly.
While wheel alignment is performed using computerized equipment, ADAS alignment moves to another level. It requires specialized equipment and a fully trained technician to ensure proper ADAS alignment. Since ADAS uses technology to control things like brakes, cruise control, and steering, it also requires a special alignment process called a Safety Systems Alignment.
A Safety Systems Alignment adjusts the angles of the tire, calibrates the ADAS cameras, sensors, and radar system that help control the technological systems and components. If they aren’t in proper alignment, they cannot function properly, putting you at risk. For example, if the rear camera system is out of sync, it can’t track your wheel angle to help you reverse.
This isn’t something just anyone can do. It requires state of the art equipment, a highly skilled technician, and additional time to ensure your vehicle is up to par with your vehicle’s manufacturer’s guidelines.
Do you need a Safety Systems Alignment?
When your wheels are out of alignment, several warning signals appear to alert you to potential problems. You might notice your car drifts to one side or the other as you drive straight. Or your steering wheel is crooked while going straight.
That’s not always possible with ADAS. Your vehicle’s wheels may be in alignment, but with one of the ADAS features not working, it can steer you into a dangerous situation.
The best way to ensure your ADAS is working correctly is with regular maintenance. Just like you get frequent oil changes, or rotate the tires every few thousand miles, a check-up to ensure your ADAS is working correctly will ensure the safety of you and your passengers.