Self-installing an automotive driver assistance system

My eyes water in the hot afternoons while sitting in city traffic. This often proves to be a problem when the traffic is moving along at 70 mph and then suddenly stops. I live an hour out of the city these days, but I still take an occasional trip into town to consult with customers or to reach the airport, and I decided I needed something to help in these situations.

An article on EETimes.com about the Tesla Autopilot's flaws got me thinking — even that flawed system would be better than my tear-laden eyes. Looking around the web, I discovered that Tesla's supplier, MobilEye, had a dealer in Plano TX, but they didn’t return my phone calls. I also found the Brandmotion ADAS-1000 on Amazon for less than $500 (it was about $680 on Brandmotion's website).

This ended up being either a self-install or a “find a shop that will do it” proposition. I looked over the PDF manual and the Brandmotion website, and decided that this did not look to bad for an EE who had worked briefly on an early predecessor to the Javelin optically guided/seeking missile back in the Reagan years. A local stereo shop banged out he tasks of hiding the wires and connecting the power, ground, turn signals, and the two camera units for about $100, but the analog speed sensor required that I build a CAN-to-analog speed converter to allow this to supplement the unit's internal GPS.


ADAS-1000 main camera display & touch screen (Source: Will Murray)

The Brandmotion ADAS-1000 features a forward-looking HiDef video camera whose angle is adjustable for the slope of the windshield to which that the unit is mounted. This camera feeds an Nivida VPU (vision processing unit), which performs the image analysis and video recording. The image is analyzed for vehicle-in-front closure rate with a programmable alarm threshold. The system also analyzes for lane departure and provides a warning if you start to move out of a lane without signaling. Finally, if sitting in traffic or at a traffic light, when the vehicle in front starts to move, the video is analyzed and the unit will chime and make an announcement. The unit also features a VGA rear backup/impact camera. Accelerometers in the unit will trigger the unit to write 15 seconds of video pre- and post-impact (30 seconds in all) from both the front and rear cameras to an SD card.

The unit originates in Korea, apparently, and — while reasonably well done for the price — it does have some limitations as follows:

  1. The unit only works to -20°C, so if you are in Minneapolis and park outside in the winter, you may expect a warm-up delay.
  2. The video analysis is befuddled by windshield wipers in heavy rain or by raindrops (I'm not sure how to solve this one).
  3. The back-up camera has to be manually switched over to view.
  4. The touch screen is small and hard to read.
  5. A link to a HUD (heads-up display) would be nice — there may be a way to implement this with a vehicle-mounted embedded PC.

Even taking the above limitations into account, I would award this solution an overall “4 out of 5 stars,” not the least that it has already saved my bacon on one occasion. I think it's amazing how far video processing has progressed in recent years — what do you think?

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