Shedding Light on Driver Vision Augmentation Systems
Driver vision augmentation systems, including head-up displays, are a steadily growing niche within the emerging “safety performance” aftermarket. To learn more about these and other ADAS opportunities, visit the “SEMA Vehicle Technology ADAS Resource Guide” at www.semagarage.com/services/vehicleadas.
While identifying multiple growth opportunities for the specialty-equipment industry, the recently released “SEMA Advanced Vehicle Technology Opportunities Report” (see p. 328) predicts aftermarket growth potential in some types of driver vision augmentation (DVA) systems. To better understand this advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technology, SEMA News turned to SEMA Vice President of Vehicle Technology John Waraniak.
SEMA News: The DVA category includes a broad range of ADAS technologies. Perhaps we should first cover those offered by the OEMs.
John Waraniak: DVA systems provide drivers with enhanced views of the road ahead to improve safety and assist in the reduction of collisions. They improve the driver’s situational awareness. DVA technologies span roughly four areas: adaptive headlights, dynamic responsive headlights (DRH), infrared night-vision display (INVD), and head-up display (HUD). The automakers provide most of the ADAS-related headlight technologies today, while the aftermarket is playing a significant role in providing many of the HUDs and display applications for retrofitting ADAS products and features.
SN: Starting with adaptive headlights, how do these technologies work, and how easy are they for the aftermarket to install or integrate with other
JW: Traditional headlights simply shine a beam of light straight ahead of the car and can be switched between low and high beams. Adaptive headlights follow the road with you. They use sensors to detect a vehicle’s speed, steering-wheel position and yaw rate to angle the headlights in the optimal direction for assisted driver vision. They include small motors to redirect the entire headlight beam and can aim side to side as the steering wheel turns, improving vision for the driver as well as for oncoming vehicles.
Advanced software-augmented variations of headlights are gaining in popularity. Adaptive headlights may also use a self-leveling system to accommodate for hills. High-beam-assist headlight systems sense ambient light and oncoming traffic to activate or deactivate high beams based on driving conditions.
SN: Next we have DRH.
JW: DRH systems use the same hardware as adaptive headlights but go further to assist the driver with headlight brightness in various conditions. The headlights will also automatically dim high beams for oncoming traffic and turn high beams on in low-visibility situations. Dynamic headlights typically incorporate both curve-adaption and auto-dim features through dynamic manipulation of an LED matrix. Dynamic headlights may also have features to detect pedestrians and other objects, avoid shining at oncoming cars, and automatically increase brightness when it’s very dark. Such a system requires advanced machine-vision and artificial-intelligence software algorithms, sensors and electronic control unit integration.
Dynamic headlights are currently disallowed by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 108, which requires headlamps to consist of upper and lower beams. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has authority to enforce FMVSS 108 in any case where headlamps may cause excessive glare or confuse other motorists.
NHTSA investigated LED matrix headlamps and determined that existing systems often exceed glare measurements. As with all OEM and aftermarket vehicle equipment, products deemed to have a safety-related defect are subject to NHTSA’s recall authority, even if not in violation of federal motor vehicle safety standards.
As is typical with all aftermarket devices, the manufacturer is obligated to ensure that the product is free of safety defects. Failure to do so may result in a civil lawsuit and/or government intervention.
OEMs have been experimenting with dynamic responsive headlights, which consist of complex LED matrixes that can automatically dim, brighten and aim themselves to match driving conditions. While such systems don’t currently conform to federal regulations, the technology is expected to advance rapidly within the next few years.
SN: And how about INVD systems?
JW: Automotive night vision refers to several related technologies that can help increase a driver’s situational awareness when low-light conditions make it difficult to see the road. Those systems extend the perception of the driver beyond the limited reach of headlights through thermographic cameras, infrared lights, HUDs and other technologies. Since automotive night vision can alert drivers to the presence of potential hazards before they become visible, those systems can help prevent accidents.
INVDs utilize a thermographic camera capable of picking up the heat that radiates from objects, animals and people to alert the driver of objects in the vehicle’s path. The systems are especially useful during heavy snowfall, rainfall or fog. INVDs provide drivers with an image of the road ahead as seen through an infrared camera, possibly augmented with object-recognition software for pedestrians, bicyclists and animals.
Most night-vision systems consist of an infrared or near-infrared camera and an in-vehicle screen to display the image. Advanced systems equipped with object recognition also include a graphics processing unit, with artificial intelligence image-recognition software available from new automotive players, chipmakers and system providers such as Nvidia, Polysync, Autonomous Stuff, Arrow Electronics and Intel. There is no notable technology challenge to night vision systems as far as capturing and displaying an image. However, there remain challenges to designing a system that provides measurable safety benefits. There may be new aftermarket opportunities for companies combining night vision with HUDs.
SN: And lastly we have HUDs.
JW: HUD systems are mainly used to show drivers the speedometer, tachometer and navigation system readouts in an area that allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road. Systems information is displayed using a dashboard-mounted screen or a transparent glass combiner integrated on the windshield. They were first used in military fighter jets, but today’s HUDs fall somewhere between a tech feature and a safety feature and allow drivers to see data in a head-up position.
SN: In general, what “safety performance” benefits do DVA products bring to consumers?
JW: DVA systems have been in use in premium vehicles for almost seven years. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that adaptive headlights reduce property damage claims by 5% and injury claims by 8%. Drivers using adaptive headlighting around curves are able to see objects sooner than drivers with fixed headlights.
Night-vision systems have also been on the market for many years but have not gained much popularity with consumers. In fact, OEM factory installations have declined in the last few years. Some drivers may appreciate those systems, but our SEMA research study was unable to identify any measured safety benefits for night vision.
HUDs are often marketed as a safety feature that allows drivers to get pertinent vehicle information such as vehicle speed without taking their eyes off the road. One U.S. Department of Transportation NHTSA study suggested that HUDs used to relay visual ADAS warnings to the driver are more effective than having them in the dashboard instrumentation.
SN: What specific DVA product opportunities exist for the aftermarket?
JW: Aftermarket HUD systems have seen modest gains in recent years. New products are relatively inexpensive and can be installed in a vehicle with methods as simple as double-sided tape or suction cups. Typical systems range in price from $30–$400. HUDs are becoming increasingly common in all types of new cars, but you don’t have to trade in your older model to get one. Several aftermarket solutions from companies such as Hudway and Garmin let you modernize or customize your current ride, whether you prefer an affordable device or a high-end product.
NHTSA has issued voluntary guidelines for in-vehicle devices designed to minimize the time the driver is not looking at the road. NHTSA explicitly recommends against displaying moving images on a screen. There is increasing interest in using HUDs to provide temporary warnings and alerts to the driver. That may ultimately prove more popular than always-on HUDs that show information such as
Basic HUD technology is well established for aftermarket product developers. The technology challenges for developing aftermarket and customized systems are mostly centered on acquiring and integrating the onboard vehicle information to be displayed to the driver. HUDs will gain in popularity when new technologies such as augmented reality and driver eye-tracking provide relevant information in a seamless display. As information-only systems, HUDs do not impose much aftermarket product liability, especially if the customized system can be switched off.
Incidentally, I was the systems engineering program leader at Hughes Aircraft and GM Racing during the time we designed the first automotive HUD, introduced in the United States on the ’88 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Indianapolis 500 pace cars. We also experimented with HUD systems for Rick Mear’s helmet and his Indy 500-winning Pennzoil Penske PC17 racer
SN: From a supplier standpoint, how competitive is the DVA category?
JW: Aftermarket vehicle lighting is a billion-dollar market segment. However, adding or retrofitting advanced headlight systems to non-equipped vehicles is more complex than a simple headlamp replacement. Advanced headlamps need to be coupled with additional vision sensors and integrated with vehicle systems.
The cost of hardware, complexity of installation and potential to attract regulatory scrutiny may prevent a strong aftermarket for advanced headlights. However, the strength of the current lighting aftermarket suggests that there is strong interest in lighting upgrades. The type of consumers or enthusiasts, such as off-roaders who are willing to upgrade or augment vehicle lighting, may also be interested in advanced headlamp and HUD options. There are no specific regulatory issues regarding HUDs, and the competition is driven by price and the ability to customize and personalize the display.
SN: What should every retailer know about this ADAS category?
JW: Night vision requires only an infrared camera and an in-vehicle screen. Aftermarket options have been available for many years and can be a fairly simple installation. However, the low OEM take rates and relatively high cost of automotive-grade infrared cameras is likely to keep aftermarket demand low. Night-vision systems coupled with new HUD technology may increase safety performance benefits as well as consumer interest and provide SEMA retailers with new opportunities. Marketing campaigns and collaborative partnerships with customization and collision-repair shops may be a new sales-growth channel.
More than 600,000 HUD units are currently sold annually in the aftermarket, representing about $1.25 million in annual sales. That is likely to continue growing in the near term as consumer awareness increases, technology improves, and costs decrease. Driver desire to access information from connected devices such as smartphones in a relatively safe way is an emerging driving factor in this market. SEMA research projects the HUD aftermarket to roughly double by 2021 to annual sales of between $210 million and $286 million, growing at a 12% compound annual growth rate for the next
SN: Wrapping it all up, why are technologies such as these so important for every SEMA member to understand?
JW: Performance and safety are not mutually exclusive. The 10 millionth Ford Mustang produced on August 8 was a high-tech vehicle powered by a 460hp GT V8 coupled to a six-speed manual transmission and equipped with ADAS technology. The first Mustang produced in 1964 was equipped with a three-speed manual transmission with a 164hp V8.
John Waraniak leads SEMA’s vehicle technology programs to connect members with cost-effective product-development and engineering resources, solutions and benefits.
Safety performance technology has come a long way and is an emerging market for aftermarket ADAS products and features that offer enthusiasts customized and personalized experiences. According to Autotrader, consumers increasingly want more technology that assists in making them better, safer drivers.
Ford jumped on the ADAS trend this year with its Co-Pilot 360 system. Ford will make the system standard on all upcoming vehicles introduced in the United States. It will also be on the Ranger when the midsize pickup debuts next year. Co-Pilot 360 includes automatic emergency braking, collision alert, pedestrian detection, blind-spot alert, lane-keeping assist and automatic high beams.
Toyota is on the second generation of its Safety Sense system, and Honda just sold its one-millionth vehicle with Honda Sensing in the United States. Other automakers are also adding driver-assistance systems, but in a more piecemeal fashion than as a set of standard-equipment features—which creates niche product opportunities for passive aftermarket ADAS innovators.
In the future, car radios and infotainment systems will be able to process aftermarket ADAS blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning and collision avoidance when used with cameras and radar-sensor packages. Technology is now under development to allow aftermarket car radios to offer augmented reality safety systems. Augmented reality technologies will let you enter a parking garage and get a birds’-eye view on the car display screen or HUD of where empty parking spaces are.