How Smarter Windshields Could Make Drivers Less Safe

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September 12, 2019

While smart windshields are helping drivers with everything from lane changing to automatic breaking, the technology is not infallible, and safety experts say run-of-the-mill fender benders can be enough to throw the whole safety system off.

With Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or 'ADAS,' the car works as one unit to promote safety. Radar sensors are often hidden in the grille and ultrasonic sensors are embedded into bumpers. All of this technology is then integrated with cameras that are nestled behind the windshield.

Jessica Bailey, ADAS Glass Specialist at Safelite says that ADAS, "forms a circle of safety around your vehicle, making sure that you, as the driver, and your loved ones in the vehicle are safe and avoiding car accidents and injuries." However, a seemingly minor impact could throw off your entire vehicle. Just because these features can aid drivers on the road, it doesn't mean they can fully be relied upon as they are not autonomous systems.

"Drivers need to understand that they are still in full control of that vehicle, they are still 100 percent responsible for making sure they are aware of what is around them," says Bailey. "These systems are there to assist and alert and warn not simply to take over driving the car."

According to Safelite, the nation's largest auto glass repair and replacement company, knowing that this technology is a feature in your car could be a matter of life and death on the road. The company compares this technology to a football field, If you were driving 60 mph down the road, that’s nearly 30 feet per second, and if the camera alignment is off by even 1 degree, the camera could be looking 50 yards ahead of where it should be. Recalibration ensures that the camera is oriented in the right direction and the systems can make the right decisions as you go down the road.

The Safelite glass specialist compares this process to a cell phone. "It's almost like when you turn your cell phone location off to save some battery and when you turn it back on, it has to reorient itself with the world, just like the camera does when you go through a replacement windshield or even when your car is being worked on," said Bailey. "So it's really understanding that recalibration is not an option but it's required."

'ADAS' systems are becoming the new norm, as more than 92 percent of new vehicles offer at least one driver assistance feature, according to AAA.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reports that if ADAS is used properly it has the potential to prevent 8,000 car related deaths per year, yet, in reality, some drivers appear to find the technology to be intrusive. According to a recent survey from J.D. Power, thousands of drivers are turning off safety assistance systems because they find them "annoying or bothersome."

Maybe people don't want to be told they are constantly driving incorrectly, but Bailey says that is besides the point. "These systems are limiting the number of crashes that we are going to experience."

Bailey also spoke about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's plan to test cars that rely solely on cameras rather than mirrors.

"This technology is new. It has been approved in Europe and Japan but it's in the testing phase here. The NHTSA is testing it to understand how the driver's behavior changes when they are changing lanes or making a turn." Bailey says in regards to this advanced technology, "It will be an adjustment for the population to understand what it is like to not have the rear view mirror or the side mirror to look at."