As advances in technology make for smarter, safer vehicles, the overwhelming array of features and assists on modern cars can feel like an overload of abbreviations and acronyms. But, whether you drive a humble all-rounder like the Subaru Crosstrek, a spacious three-row SUV such as the Cadillac Escalade, or a sleek crossover or coupe from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, knowing what your car is equipped with has never been more important.
Advanced driver-assistance features refer to electronic systems that are designed to aid the pilot in driving and parking safely to help ensure that all passengers reach their destination in one piece. Fully autonomous driving is still some years away, although we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the extensive testing of semi-autonomous systems. But, while we wait, we are certainly not lacking in safety systems. With vehicle fatalities still accounting for a large portion of the national average, these functions are essential, and knowing exactly what they do to keep you and your loved ones safe is a big part of making sure they can do their job without interference. Here is a breakdown of some of the best advanced features that automakers consider vital in modern vehicles.
While rearview cameras are now a prerequisite on new vehicles in the US, carmakers have taken the idea of using cameras to further enhance safe driving one step further. Systems such as lane keep assist, collision avoidance and mitigation, and automatic braking rely on cameras to monitor traffic conditions, detect potential hazards, and respond automatically by either slowing the vehicle down or warning the driver to react. Traffic sign recognition uses similar tech to scan the road ahead, identify signboards, and use character recognition software to interpret data, which it then relays to the driver-information display. This includes alerting the driver to potential road problems, sharp turns or obstructions, or even something as simple as a stop sign. While some of this may seem insignificant, there is no such thing when it comes to keeping your loved ones safe.
Sensors, lasers, and more
Even many entry-level cars come with a standard parking sensor setup these days, the very least of which emits an auditory warning if you back up too close to a wall, curb, or other object. Most premium and luxury vehicles have a consignment of these, however, that detect potential hazards in close proximity all around the car. Elements such as pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and even large animal identification, as found on modern Volvo cars, all rely on these sensors, often combined with radar, lasers, and cameras add extra layers of detection and increase overall efficacy. Automatic emergency braking is often tied to these systems, ready to kick in should the driver not react quickly enough. Occupancy sensors connected to front seats are familiar additions, with seatbelt warnings for those who haven’t buckled up. And, an occupancy sensor for the rear seats can remind you that there is someone else in the car, too.
The whole world is connected. This has been made possible by the rapid growth in digital-data sources available in automobiles, with wireless networks being pivotal as well. Not only are vehicles able to monitor functions such as tire pressure, engine performance and faults, fuel economy, and the like, but the use of satellite navigation is not limited to simply identifying the quickest routes to get to work. Now, many vehicles are equipped with a GPS locator that activates in the event of a collision to notify emergency services and mobilize help to your location in the shortest time possible.
The whole nine yards
While many of these features are standard or, at the very least, optionally available on most cars these days, automakers have realized the importance (and arguably the profitability) of bundling safety elements and driver assists together in comprehensive consignments, even on less expensive models. Toyota, for example, packages its safety suite under the umbrella of Toyota Safety Sense in various configurations, which incorporates pre-collision mitigation, vehicle detection, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams as a standard set of features on compact vehicles. For larger cars, the system is tweaked to include detection of pedestrians, steering assist, and dynamic cruise control. Subaru has done something similar with its EyeSight technology, making use of both forward- and rear-facing cameras to manage adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane keep assist.
At the higher end of the pricing spectrum, European marques make semi-autonomous parking, surround-view cameras, head-up displays, and a driver-attention alert available to their offerings, which in turn leads to superior ratings from authorities such as the IIHS and the NHTSA. And, with accolades such as Top Safety Pick+ awarded to derivatives that are jam-packed with these features, we can hope that manufacturers will continue the trend of making safety a priority.