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A Brief History of ADAS : From Switches to Software – Part 2

In this article, we explored the history and development of some ADAS systems including collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking, backup camera, blind-spot warning, advanced front lighting, and tire pressure monitoring.


This article is the second in a series about the history and features of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in automobiles. The first article discussed cruise control, ABS, traction control, and stability control and this article continues with a discussion on collision avoidance system, automatic emergency braking (AEB), backup camera, blindspot warning, advanced front lighting, and tire pressure monitoring.

Collision Avoidance & Automatic Emergency Braking

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), also sometime referred to as forward collison sensing, helps a vehicle to
detect the occurrence of a potentially dangerous situation to which the driver is not responding in a timely or appropriate manner. Where such events occur, the brakes are automatically applied to slow the vehicle and reduce the risk of a serious collision taking place. Examples of such situations include parking, lane-changing or when unexpectedly encountering pedestrians.

The origins of AEB can be traced back to a company called RCA which designed radar-based systems during World War II and later applied these to managing rail and automobile traffic. Later, George Rashid invented and patented the first radar-controlled braking system for automated vehicles to help reduce the number of accidents caused by foggy weather and also the delayed reactions of older drivers. His system automatically cut the throttle and automatically applied the brakes if the threat of a collision was detected. Due to fears about the reliability of the technology it used and the potential for it to cause other accidents, this system was not a commercial success. In later years, other automobile companies used Rashid’s patent when implementing their own AEB systems, inclufing General Motor’s 1959 Cadillac Cyclone concept car

Figure 1. General Motor’s 1959 Cadillac Cyclone Concept Car Designed by Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell, Courtesy of Piston Heads

The system calculated the distance to an object in front of the vehicle and warned the driver how far away it proving them with sufficient time to react. By the 1990’s AEB had become commmerically viable and many car companies like Honda, Toyota, Mercedes, Volvo ad Mitsubishi began to actively develop collision detection systems which also included automatic braking and cruise control features. Adaptive cruise control became available post 2010.

Figure 2. Mercedes Benz “Distronic” System in the 1990s, Courtesy of Piston Heads

As cars become more autonomous, the requirement for increasingly sophisticated forward sensing systems grows. While the detection range for early systems was only in the order of tens of meters, this has increased to 300m in modern systems which use a combination of cameras, radar and LiDAR technology.

Figure 3. 1956 Buick Centurion Concept Car With Rear Backup Camera, Courtesy of John Lloyd

Backup Camera

While the first known example of a backup camera was on the 1956 Buick Centurion concept car, Toyota was the first OEM to put one into a production vehicle (the 1991 Soarer Limited) which used a color screen and a spoiler-mounted CCD camera. In 2002, a toddler was accidentally fatally injured by his father while backing up a large SUV in his driveway. This event became a catalyst for the mass adoption of backup cameras which later became a legal requirement. In 2015 Cadillac offered a high-resolution wide field of view backup camera that allowed the driver to see much farther behind the vehicle (even into adjacent lanes). By 2017 both Subaru and Cadillac had developed rear automatic emergency braking systems that used images from a backup camera.

Blind Spot Warning

Volvo are credited with inventing the blind spot warning (BSW) system, which it introduced in 2003. These systems use a warning light on the side mirrors to alert the driver to the presence of an object in an area which they cannot see either in the mirror or in their peripheral vision. Most systems on the road today use a combination of use radar and cameras as described built into the side mirrors.

Advanced Front Lighting System

Advanced front lighting systems (AFLS) control the intensity and direction of headlamps light by adjusting it in respone to changes in vehicle speed, road and environmental conditions. Electric headlamps on automobiles first appeared in 1911. These did not have high a low/beam feature which meant the the driver needed to get in and out of the car to change the beam angle. In 1915, Cadillac became the first company to provide a beam switch on the dashboard. In the mid-1920s, the two-filament headlamp was invented to enable both high and low beams. Maufacturers provided a foot-pedal control switch to select between high and low beam. Later, automatic beam control systems were developed to switch between high and low beams if a sensor detected oncoming traffic.

Until the 1990s, headlamp innovation primarily related to the lighting technology. Halogen lights became popular and later shifted to HID (High-Intensity Discharge) and finally to LED (light-emitting diode) in the 1990s. LEDs are more’ efficient and robust meaning they have become the dominant light source used in modern vehicles. The next major advance in lighting happened when electronic adaptive front lighting systems became a feature of premium models in the 2000s. These were initially implemented using mechanical motors but have since become fully electronic. They have also been further developed to automatically adapt the headlight beam when rain is detected and as external lighting conditions change.

Figure 4. Rain and Light Sensor Module Example, Courtesy of Hella

Tire Pressure Monitoring

The idea of a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) was first conceived in 1970 but the technology to implement one did not then exist. In 1987, the Porsche 959 became the first vehicle to have a practical TPMS. This was the first vehicle to use run-flat tires, which required tire pressure monitoring. By 1999, Chevrolet made TPMS a standard feature on its Corvettes and wider industry adoption began to occur. However, it was the 2000 TREAD (Tire Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation) act from the U.S. government (which was introduced after a series of lethal accidents relating to tire safety) that made these systems mandatory.


In this article, we explored the history and development of some ADAS systems including collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking, backup camera, blind-spot warning, advanced front lighting, and tire pressure monitoring. In final article of this series, we will investigate more ADAS systems including driver and occupant monitoring, surround view, and V2x. We will also consider software-defined vehicles and the trend towards total vehicle digitization before discussing the potrential impact on future vehicles of advanced technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and the metaverse.


BiS Team

BIS Infotech is a vivid one stop online source protracting all the exclusive affairs of the Consumer and Business Technology. We have well accomplished on delivering expert views, reviews, and stories empowering millions with impartial and nonpareil opinions. Technology has become an inexorable part of our daily lifestyle and with BIS Infotech expertise, millions of intriguers everyday are finding for itself a crony hangout zone.

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