Intelligent Vehicles Versus Autonomous Vehicles

Over the past two decades, there’s been a lot of research money flowing into the development of intelligent vehicle systems (IVS) also referred to as intelligent vehicle technology (IVT).

IVS/IVT programs focus on finding ways to creatively and proactively alert drivers of potential collision threats so that the driver has more time to react and avoid the dangerous situation.

This approach recognizes that improved sensors could detect: objects in the roadway; closure rates (ie. coming too close, too fast to another vehicle moving the same direction in the same lane); roadway conditions; braking system efficiency; tire pressure and more.  By combining this sensor data with a computer system used to evaluate the data and issue recommendations in the forms of alerts, drivers would have a better chance to avoid collisions.

Examples of these systems include:

  • Forward collision avoidance systems
  • Adaptive headlights, which shift direction as the driver steers
  • Lane departure warning
  • Blind spot detection
  • Park assist (sensors showing the relative position and distance to other parked vehicles or fixed objects)

The Highway Loss Data Institute has recently completed an analysis of insurance claims for vehicles using the intelligent vehicle technology.  Insurance claims provide a simple way to see if these technologies are making an impact on crash rates.

From their report;

“HLDI analysts looked at how each feature affected claim frequency under a variety of insurance coverages for damage and injuries. Clear patterns were seen in claims under property damage liability (PDL) insurance, which covers damage caused by the insured vehicle to another vehicle, and collision insurance, which covers damage to the insured vehicle. Frequency is measured as the number of claims relative to the number of insured vehicle years. An insured vehicle year is one vehicle insured for one year, two vehicles for six months, etc. The model years of the vehicles included ranged from 2000 to 2011, depending on when an automaker introduced a feature. Insurance data through August 2011 were used.  The crash avoidance systems studied were all offered as optional equipment. The automakers supplied HLDI with identification numbers of vehicles that had each feature, allowing HLDI to compare the insurance records for those vehicles with the same models without the feature. In each analysis, HLDI controlled for factors that could influence claim rates, including driver age and gender, garaging state and collision deductible.”

So what’s the bottom line?  HLDI’s team states; “So far, forward collision technology is reducing claims, particularly for damage to other vehicles, and adaptive headlights are having an even bigger impact than we had anticipated.”  However, not all results were as glowing; “In contrast to the better-than-expected results for adaptive headlights, lane departure warning systems…appeared to have the opposite of their intended effect. Both were associated with increased claim rates under collision and PDL coverages and for injuries to occupants of the insured vehicles.”

  • If you’d like to dig into their report more fully, you can find it at
  • If you’d like to watch a video re-cap, we’ve embedded a video at the bottom of this article.

Leap Frogging to the Next Generation?

My mind wonders whether these intelligent vehicle systems will hit the mainstream (i.e. become “standard” equipment on cars and trucks) before “Autonomous Vehicles” (AVs) become available on a widespread basis.

If you think about how computer technology goes obsolete within moments of taking it out of its box, could I be on target that we’ll have self driving vehicles before we really get used to these new systems?

I think that the pioneering work done in the IVS/IVT field over the past twenty years is making it possible to get to the AV stage, and without this foundation, AVs would still be in the distant future.   Interestingly, the HLDI report seems to indicate a subtle preference for systems that will take control from the driver when reaction times are critical over systems that passively warn the driver without taking control.  Could this be a nod towards AVs as the way to eliminate most collisions?