1. FORWARD COLLISION WARNING WITH AUTO-BRAKING
Forward collision warning with auto-braking systems are an amazing addition to the safety features found on cars today. The system uses cameras, lasers, and/or radar to detect vehicles ahead and alert the driver if they are closing in too fast.
An audible alert or vibration in the steering wheel is used to get the driver’s attention. If the vehicle passes a certain threshold, the system will automatically apply the brakes in an effort to prevent a crash. The system helps not only to prevent a crash, but also lessen the impact of a crash that does happen, since the computer can register a hazard faster than a driver and apply the brakes quickly. The system is so useful that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety won’t give a vehicle its top safety rating without at least the forward collision warning.
2. LANE DEPARTURE WARNING
Lane departure warning systems uses cameras or lasers to monitor lane markings. If the vehicle exits the lane without the correct turn signal being activated, the system sounds an alarm. Some vehicles vibrate the steering wheel or the driver’s seat as well. The system is helpful in preventing accidents due to inattentive drivers, or a driver who may be falling asleep at the wheel. The system is a double-edged sword though, as some drivers may become complacent, assuming that the system will alert them if something goes wrong, becoming less alert and possibly causing an accident. When used properly as an aid, and not as a crutch, the lane departure warning system is a very useful safety feature that is becoming more common in cars today.
3. BLIND SPOT WARNING
Blind spot warning systems use radar or cameras to monitor the blind spot on a vehicle. When a vehicle enters the blind spot a light will illuminate in the instrument panel of the vehicle, altering the driver of the vehicle’s presence. Should the driver not notice the light and attempt to change lanes, the system will let out an audible warning to deter the driver from completing the action. This system should be used in conjunction with proper driving procedures, as relying solely on this system can lead to accidents in the event the system malfunctions. Usually only available in luxury cars, the blind spot warning system is becoming more common in vehicles. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes a standard.
4. ADAPTIVE HEADLIGHTS
Adaptive headlights pivot to follow the steering wheel input while driving, giving the driver a clearer view of the road ahead. This technology has been proven highly effective, especially around dark corners. With this feature, the driver will be able to see not only the road ahead but anyone who may be walking along the side of the road at night, as well as a deer that may dart in front of the car. Some systems also include automatic high beams. This feature, when turned on, will automatically detect if the area ahead is clear and will activate the vehicle’s high beams. When a car approaches from the front, the system will automatically turn the high beams off.
5. ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL
The adaptive cruise control system uses information from the navigation system and cameras that read traffic signs to adjust speeds accordingly. The system can be programmed to drive up to 10 mph over the posted speed limit. Radar scanners at the front of the vehicle constantly scan the road ahead. As the vehicle approaches a slower vehicle, the adaptive cruise control system will automatically reduce vehicle power and gently apply the brakes. The safe distance is set at a certain number of seconds, rather than meters or feet, so a safe reaction time is always maintained. Around corners, the system uses data from the stability control system to decide if the speeds need to be adjusted. If sudden deceleration is required, a warning sound and a visual message alert the driver.
6. VOICE CONTROLS
Voice control started with Bluetooth connectivity, allowing the use of your cell phone while driving. Now luxury cars are starting to add voice control for other avenues in the vehicle. Controlling things like the climate control, navigation system, and even the windshield wipers via voice is available on certain vehicles. Features like this will help the driver maintain focus on the road, instead of fiddling with buttons and knobs on the dash trying to get the temperature correct. The technology is still glitchy at times, misunderstanding commands or not working correctly, and new users should spend time familiarizing themselves with the feature before trying it on the highway. As a convenience and safety feature, however, it is on the way to becoming standard in all vehicles.
7. BACK-UP SENSORS
Back-up sensors are small sensors installed in the rear bumper of a vehicle that assist in backing a vehicle up. When the car is placed in reverse, the sensors are activated. As the car rolls backwards, the sensors check for any obstruction behind the vehicle. Once one is detected, an audible tone will go off to alert the driver that they are close to something. Some systems have lights as well as tones. As you get closer, the light changes from green, to yellow, to red, indicating the proximity to whatever is behind the vehicle. Back-up sensors are helpful but can be flawed, as the sensors may not pick up things that are too high or too low behind the car. They should be used as an aid, and caution should still be taken when traveling in reverse.
8. BACK-UP CAMERAS
A back-up camera does exactly what the name implies: it is a camera mounted on the rear bumper that helps the driver back up. Vehicles with this feature usually have a small screen mounted on their dashboard that activates once the car is placed in reverse. Many displays have distance readings so you know how close you are, and some have trajectory lines that help when parallel parking or backing into a spot on an angle. This feature helps prevent damage to your vehicle and others when backing up, but also helps prevent running something over you wouldn’t normally be able to see. Drivers with children won’t have to worry about toys and bikes left behind the car with this feature.
9. TIRE PRESSURE MONITORING SYSTEM (TPMS)
The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) monitors the tire pressure of each tire individually. When a tire’s pressure drops below a certain threshold, a light on the dash informs the driver that a tire is low. Under-inflated tires lead to tread separation and failure, resulting in 40,000 accidents, 33,000 injuries, and over 650 deaths per year. Properly inflated tires offer better handling, stability, and braking. The TPMS system also extends tire life, as it informs the driver when a tire is low, resulting in the driver adding air to keep it at the appropriate levels. Properly inflated tires also help fuel mileage; the Department of Transportation estimates that under-inflated tires waste 2 billion gallons of fuel each year.
10. ELECTRONIC STABILITY CONTROL
Electronic stability control (ESC) keeps your car on the road when you have lost control. The system checks 25 times a second if the direction your car is traveling corresponds to the steering input. If it detects a slide, it applies the brakes in an effort to help steer the vehicle where the driver intends to go. Braking is automatically applied to the wheels individually, such as to the outer front wheel to counter oversteering, or the inner rear wheel to correct understeering. Some systems also reduce engine power when a skid is detected until control is regained, preventing the car from going further out of control. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, one third of fatal accidents could be prevented with this technology.