How Some New-Car Importers Are Winning More Customers With ADAS Tuning

ADAS driver safety features

How Some New-Car Importers Are Winning More Customers With ADAS Tuning

Media reports of poorly tuned ADAS safety features are alarming. Some car brands are listening and taking the right steps.

Here’s a conversation I had with a friend on the weekend.

Him: When did stability control become mandatory in new cars?

Me: In Australia? 2011.

Him: I felt it go off in my < …. > recently. It was on a gravel road. It felt like the car suddenly switched off and then back on. All or nothing.

Hearing that in 2024 caught my attention.

VSC, or Vehicle Stability Control, intervenes while you’re driving to help prevent the car going into a slide. It might have felt “all or nothing” in the late 1990s, but it shouldn’t in a car built in 2022. Depending on the driving situation, it should be almost imperceptible.

That friend’s comment isn’t isolated. I keep reading stuff like this in the motoring media.

I see it mostly relating to ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) in new cars.

ADAS technologies use advanced sensors, cameras, radars and other sensitive hardware operated by computer algorithms. They monitor a car’s surroundings and take specific actions if they determine there’s a safety risk while driving. They do this by alerting the driver or by operating certain features (such as the brakes) to help prevent the car from getting into an accident.

Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning are all examples.

They use warning lights and sounds to alert drivers to possible dangers when driving. For example, Blind Spot Monitoring systems usually flash a light in (or near) your rear vision mirrors when other vehicles are travelling in your blind spots. This lets you know to not attempt a lane change at those times.

ADAS technologies used to appear only on expensive European car brands. Thankfully, they’re commonplace in most new cars today.

But there seems to be a problem. Australian media publications have reported concerns after their experiences of some of these latest in-car systems, describing them as “over-zealous”, “intrusive” and “sensitive”.

These are polite ways of saying “they are triggered too easily” and “they don’t operate properly”.

Here are some examples I’ve read about.

Lane Keeping Assist systems that try to ‘steer’ the car side-to-side despite the driver steering the car in a straight line in the centre of the traffic lane.

Blind Spot Warning systems that unexpectedly jerk the car back into its lane when activated, frightening the driver.

Lane Departure Warning systems that constantly beep even when the car is travelling straight and steady in the centre of its lane.

You might think these are no big deal. They are a huge deal, because they can affect vehicle safety.

That last example had been reported to cause drivers to deactivate the system to stop the constant flow of annoying warning noises. This can be dangerous. Think of it as a motorcyclist who removes their helmet because it’s uncomfortable to wear.

The implications of these poorly tuned and incorrectly engineered systems go beyond the obvious. They can also have commercial effects.

Happy new-car buyers tend to go about their business quietly. Unhappy buyers often make their opinions public. Word-of-mouth marketing might be invisible, but it’s powerful.

Even Euro NCAP (the European New Car Assessment Program) is well aware of these issues. They’ve publicly expressed their frustration with car brands that fit poorly developed versions of these technologies simply to achieve their NCAP 5-Star safety ratings.

These in-car features might ‘tick the right boxes’ but it doesn’t mean they are going to help drivers when they’re needed most. They could end up causing risks, not minimising them.

These ADAS issues aren’t the result of carmakers going backwards in their technologies. I can see it’s a mix of new brands learning quickly, cost savings and a lack of tuning.

The good news is the situation is fixable.

The reasons behind these ADAS issues often stem from incorrect or incomplete calibration-based tuning.

Fixing them is worth it – and not just for the obvious safety-related reasons.

All car brands want to attract buyers. But the last few years have shown that poorly developed and untuned ADAS features attract the wrong attention from customers, authorities and the media.

Correctly calibrated and tested ADAS systems clearly send a signal that user safety is the carmaker’s priority. It also shows a brand’s willingness to be good at working with these technologies, which aren’t always easy to ‘master’.

We’ve been calibrating and tuning these technologies for a long time. Some new-car brands are tuning them for their cars in Australia, for Australian conditions.

After all, customers are probably more likely to trust car brands with correctly tuned safety tech.

ADAS is another example of how the last 5% is often the piece that can make all the difference in sales success. And in this case, it can have a big bearing on road safety.

 

Bernie Quinn – Engineering Director, Premcar Pty Ltd

 

About Premcar:

Premcar Pty Ltd is a leading Australian vehicle engineering business that specialises in the automotive, defence and aerospace industries. For more than 25 years, global car-makers have made Premcar their go-to partner for the complete design, engineering and manufacture of niche-model new cars, full-scale new-vehicle development programs, and electric vehicle (EV) conversions and manufacturing. Premcar’s body of work is extensive. It is the name behind more than 200,000 new cars and 55,000 new-vehicle engines. The company has delivered technical advancements and sales success for major car brands from Europe, the USA, Japan, China and Australia. Visit premcar.au.

Follow Premcar on Instagram – @premcaraustralia

Follow Premcar on LinkedIn – @Premcar Pty Ltd

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