GUEST BLOG: The Pre-Dawn of ADAS 

When I was growing up, in the late 1970s and 1980s (as much as I hate to admit it), my family had a 1959 Cadillac. At times, this was an embarrassing ride. Case in point: It was polished black, had giant “wings” on the back of it and some of my schoolmates used to call it the Bat Mobile. Truth be told, that was a pretty accurate description.

Looking back, one of the things that astounds me about that car includes all of the technologies it featured. Powered windows, powered doors, powered seats—it had powered everything. Not bad for the 1950s. But, in going with the Bat Man theme, there was one power feature I fell keenly in love with: a small, gun-shaped device that was mounted to the middle of the dashboard and aiming straight through the windshield.

Some of you know what that thing was. (Or is, if it’s still out there.) And you know who you are and how old you are. But, chances are, many of you are either bored by now with my story, or simply have no idea. I’ll give you a hint: Except in my five-year-old mind, it didn’t shoot anything. Instead, it was a front-facing, photo-optical sensor, designed to detect headlights, then trigger our 1959 Caddy to automatically dim its headlights for oncoming vehicles.

Even 20 years after its making, to me, that feature was simply amazing. And now, I realize, it was one of the earliest forms—a precursor of sorts—for a group of technologies known as “advanced driver assistance systems,” or ADAS.

ADAS has come a long way from my childhood toy, to include its own set of electronic eyes—and not just photo sensors, but front-facing, digital cameras. Thanks to image analysis software, ADAS is now capable of interpreting oncoming road and environment conditions, to warn drivers of potential hazards, or even form its own decisions, automatically taking control of some vehicles to produce evasive maneuvers.

If you were alive in the 1970s with me, then you can join in saying: What the heck?

As such, if cameras are the eyes for ADAS, then that makes the glasses … you guessed it: the windshield.

If you’ve ever worn glasses—even non-prescription sunglasses—and had them to become warped, bent out of shape, or otherwise damaged, then chances are you know how it doesn’t take much before your vision is off. With prescription glasses, just a couple of millimeters of bend may be all it takes to make you feel disoriented. Or, maybe I’m talking out of my you know what, because I’ve never worn prescription glasses. But bear with me, as I’m going for a point here. It’s a rudimentary analogy, but that’s exactly what some car manufacturers are arguing over replacement auto glass and their ADAS cameras. And for this reason, many are pushing back at the service level on anything other than OEM glass, by advising their service departments to avoid calibrating ADAS cameras through aftermarket glass.

With the situation well past boil, AGRR magazine is digging in. And we’re finding many sides of the story to consider. But without giving too much away for our upcoming article, I will say: Based on the experts we’ve consulted with, the issue has more to do with than just selling more OEM glass at dealerships. And we’re told by many sides that each side has some merit.

In the September-October edition of AGRR, we’ll tell you everything we’ve managed to pull together. If you’re part of the auto glass industry, you owe it to yourself to tune in.

Drew Vass is a contributing editor to AGRR magazine and glassBYTEs.com.

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