Tension builds as auto industry awaits reborn ADAS specs

By Junko Yoshida for Ojo & Yoshida Report – A deeper look at NHTSA’s new safety mandate: what it entails and how it will transform the auto industry’s supplier ecosystem.

What’s at stake?

Never underestimate the power of a regulator, especially one armed with a Congressional mandate — and money — to make the roads safer for all users. The 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill boosted NHTSA’s budget by 50 percent. Observers say the agency is poised to issue regulations with teeth.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is oft criticized for being too slow and cautious in mandating ADAS technology among its regulations. Worse, it has left too much implementation to voluntary agreements with the auto industry.

“This changed on May 31 with NHTSA’s announcement of adding both Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and pedestrian AEB (PAEB) to New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) regulation,” said Egil Juliussen, principal analyst at VSI Labs.

In the infrastructure bill, Congress directed NHTSA to modernize NCAP, which would include ratings for crash-avoidance technologies.

NHTSA has long been criticized for its hesitant leadership. In responding to NHTSA’s Request for Comments (RFC), Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), did not mince words. “NTSHA’s inaction in the last decade,” she noted, has “threatened to reduce the US NCAP to near irrelevance.” NCAP was once the global leader in rating vehicle safety.

The NTSB has urged NHTSA to aggressively incorporate ADAS, other advanced safety technologies, and pedestrian protection into its overall NCAP rating.


Sensor suppliers in the race

The Ojo-Yoshida Report asked Yole Intelligence what other sensor technologies are poised to meet stringent AEB-PAEB requirements. Pierrick Boulay, senior technology and market analyst, shared the following observations:

Courtesy of Yole Group, 2023

VSI Labs believes that NHTSA’s new AEB-PAEB requirements affect not just ADAS sensing, but also “compute and the overall complexity of the forward detection and prediction capabilities.”

Yole’s Perrick concurs. The need for increased compute power compels these companies to position themselves for NHTSA’s updated ADAS mandate.

Courtesy of Yole Group, 2023

Joining the computing segment, along with the usual suspects – Mobileye and Nvidia — are Israel-based Hailo and China’s Black Sesame, Horizon Robotics and SingGo, Perrick pointed out . SingGo is Cambricon Technologies’ main AI unit,  primarily engaged in research and development of intelligent driving chips. Cambricon, however, was placed on the U.S. government’s trade blacklist in December, 2022, over concerns that it is diverting its technology to the Chinese military.

It is increasingly clear that adding yet another sensor (thermal, for example), reinforces “the need of data fusion,” observed Perrick. Sensor fusion is already happening in high-end cars but the new regulation would push it down into cheaper models, he added.

During the latest Autosens conference in Brussels, Lynred and St. Gobain presented a windshield integrated with a thermal camera, noted Perrick. “Its location was aligned with the forward ADAS camera to ease the fusion of data.”

A thermal camera behind the windshield could be a “game changer,” said Perrick. It would allow the camera a better field of view and solve the issue of cleaning a camera that was previously installed in the car’s grille.

The Yole analyst believes the average selling price (ASP) of a thermal camera is between $300 and $400, “still high compared to an RGB camera.”  But given the higher volumes expected with this regulation, the ASP could decrease rapidly, predicted Perrick…. Full article