Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), are electronic systems that help the vehicle driver while driving or during parking.
Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), are electronic systems that help the vehicle driver while driving or during parking.
( Bild: ©metamorworks -

ADAS Driver-assist systems: A comprehensive guide to car safety tech

Author / Editor: Jason Unrau / Erika Granath

The glut of modern driver-assistance systems on new cars has quickly gotten confusing. Yet, you should aim to understand the ADAS systems in your car. After all, they can save your life.

If you've shopped for a car in the past few years, you've seen the advancement of in-car technology. New features have emerged first as premium safety and convenience options, then as standard-equipment driver-assist and safety systems. These advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) are designed to automate an increasing number of vehicle processes to reduce manual interaction from the driver.

However, jargon and acronyms confuse many car shoppers and owners. BLIS, FCW, Hill Start Assist, and many terms are misunderstood, thus not used correctly.

Below is an overview of ten popular ADAS systems in today's cars.

10 ADAS systems worth knowing

At the end of the day, knowing the ADAS systems in your car can save your life, so you better know what they're all about.

Active Park Assist

Active Park Assist, otherwise known as Intelligent Parking Assist, aids the driver in completing a parking maneuver. In some vehicles, the system takes over steering control for parallel and perpendicular parking while the driver operates the gearshift, accelerator, and brakes. For other systems like Ford's Enhanced Active Park Assist, the system performs the complete parking process while you hold down a single button. The system can even identify parking spots suitable for your vehicle. Gone are the days when you have to drive up and down crowded parking lots looking for a free place.

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)

Also called Distance Control, Adaptive Cruise Control uses forward-viewing cameras, LiDAR, and sensors to maintain a safe following distance from vehicles ahead in traffic when cruise control is set. When the way ahead is clear, the max set cruising speed is maintained, but the vehicle will automatically slow its speed when a vehicle appears ahead of your car. Many Adaptive Cruise Control systems include Stop-and-Go, safely bringing your vehicle to a complete stop, and resuming travel with little to no driver input.

Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFLS)

On some premium models, Adaptive Front Lighting System improves on-road visibility at night. The system uses steering input to turn headlight beams to coincide with the direction you point your car. On-road curves, AFLS can help drivers identify obstacles on the road earlier to avoid dangerous maneuvers and accidents.

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)

Forward-viewing cameras and radar sensors determine when an obstacle or vehicle is in the way ahead. In some cases, systems also detect pedestrians. If the system detects an obstacle and there's no driver input to avoid the collision, brakes are applied automatically to prevent or mitigate the severity of an impact.

Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)

Also known as Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), this system identifies vehicles tucked into the blind spot on either side of your car. A camera detects the vehicle's presence and illuminates a warning light near the mirror on the corresponding side. It may flash or sound a warning if you signal to turn into a lane that's occupied. Some systems also display the camera's side view on the infotainment screen when you signal.

Forward Collision Warning (FCW)

Often tied to Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning uses cameras and radar and/or laser to scan ahead of a vehicle while driving, then alerts the driver if the vehicle is approaching a vehicle or obstacle too quickly. It provides audible, visual, and/or haptic alerts for the driver. If they don't respond, many systems engage AEB.

Hill Start Assist (HSA)

Hill Start Assist, also called Hill-Hold, operates in conjunction with the braking system. At a complete stop, sensors detect when your car is on an incline. If you're stopped on a surface that isn't completely flat, the system holds the brakes momentarily to prevent your vehicle from unexpectedly rolling when you transition from brake to accelerator.

Lane Departure Warning (LDW)/Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS)

Two related systems that complement each other are Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping Assist. Lane Departure Warning uses a forward-watching camera to detect lane markings. If you approach or cross the lane markings without first signaling, an audible and/or visual warning are given. Lane Keeping Assist takes it a step further and uses automatic steering and braking input to keep your vehicle in its lane.

Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR)

Also known as Road Sign Recognition, TSR employs a forward-facing camera to scan for traffic signs ahead. Artificial Intelligence-powered character recognition software deciphers the sign's meaning and relays the instruction to the instrument panel. TSR reports road signs of all kinds, whether speed limit, traffic instruction, or construction warning signs, but it's simply as information.

Speed Limit Assist (ISA)

Speed Limit Assist, or Intelligent Speed Adaptation, doesn't just detect the speed limit from traffic signs. ISA uses posted speed limits to adjust your vehicle's cruising speed while your cruise control is set. It's commonly found in conjunction with Adaptive Cruise Control and Traffic Sign Recognition.