Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Do you know what ADAS means? It’s an acronym for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. It is the umbrella term for everything from ABS to adaptive cruise control.
Slowly becoming part of the general motoring lingo, ADAS is – I suspect – more of a term coined by engineers and those who create the tech that defines modern cars and modern driving. It ultimately embraces traction control and ABS anti-lock braking (systems which were still relatively novel when I first started testing cars as a cadet motoring journalist in the late 1980s) all the way to torque vectoring.
Devon Scott touches on ADAS as part of an excellent intro at the Jaguar Driving Experience and it is a theme which is reintroduced repeatedly in the course of a fascinating morning at the brand’s facility in Lonehill. It has (sadly in some ways) been well over a decade since I got to park a Jaguar in my driveway so to have the likes of the F-Type, F-Pace, all-electric I-Pace and latest XE and XF sedans at my behest was novel and exciting, to say the least.
Since I last drove cars in anger, 400-plus kW seems to have become the new normal and a hot hatch with less than 150 kW is now merely a warm hatch, which is why ADAS systems are not nice-to-haves but must-haves. The kW numbers have certainly brought out my inner conservative though, and I can’t help wondering whether the speed and acceleration numbers being talked about have become absurd and whether it is time for Big Brother to step in?
With 18-year-olds having ready access to 250 km/h cars, isn’t it overdue? After all, human reaction time has remained unchanged and while braking distances are amazing thanks to advances in tyres, electronics and hardware, the results published in roads tests are based on ideal everything - including reaction time.
My other interest in ADAS comes via my involvement with Racelogic, the provider of the VBOX hardware used by virtually every car manufacturer to validate ADAS systems. As you can image, when developing the likes of Active Cruise Control or Autonomous Braking, you need to be sure the system reacts timeously and appropriately…it would be inconvenient if the car unnecessarily and excessively when you're cruising the fast lane and it would be even worse if it didn’t slow the car sufficiently or soon enough when closing in from 120 km/h on a car doing 80 km/h.
Another point well-made by Devon is that these electronic aids should be considered an integral part of the dynamic package. They’re not there to mask shortcomings but form part of the whole. So turning them off in the pursuit of glory – even on a skidpan – proves little. They react significantly faster than even the most skilled race drivers so let them save your bacon and make you look more talented than you might be.
ADAS is what make it possible for tall SUVs like the F-Pace to handle a slalom with such precision and for a sports car like the F-Type to corner like a race car…
It becomes clear again on the skidpan when despite armfuls of opposite lock applied at quickly and as soon as possible, it is all but impossible to prevent a car from spinning out on a wet surface. A similar exercise with the Jaguar’s standard systems engaged result in a reasonably undramatic reduction in power and the ability to stay safely between the cones which define the road…
But one thing remains startlingly clear: despite the advances in technology and the almost insane ability to bring a car back from the brink, the laws of physics continue to play an important role and remain the final arbiter as to whether you crash or not. The final part of the lesson therefore, is not to rely on the electronics too much. They too have limitations.
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