5 New Car Safety Features for Avoiding Crashes
See how the next-generation of car safety features are helping to protect us on the road.
While vehicle safety may not be as sexy or disruptive as other aspects of car technology, auto manufacturers have continued to explore new car safety features that can help protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike. Even though today’s cars are already designed to crumple around us, alert us to danger and save lives with pillow-soft airbags, each year we're seeing new innovative features and improvements.
Here's a list of next-generation features that are helping drivers re-think vehicle safety.
1. Forward Collision Warning
One of the most powerful car safety features available today is forward collision warning. Comprised of a system of radar sensors and cameras, it scans the road ahead and warns you with bright lights and loud noises if you’re about to hit something.
Some forward collision warning systems vibrate the steering wheel to get your attention or even apply the brakes for you. The sensors in your car detect how close you are to other vehicles and stationary objects and then determine when you should brake. In other words, our cars are now making the roads a lot safer for us.
Keep in mind that external factors such as snow, ice and even the sun can alter how this feature works. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for the location of your sensors so you can keep them clean. Also, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t rely solely on the collision system to avoid accidents, because the angle of the sun during certain conditions might render it less effective.
2. Rear-View Cameras
This is one that's becoming more and more commonplace. Projecting to a screen in the cab, these cameras allow you see blind spots when reversing. Many feature diagrammatic indicators to show you how much room you have, as well as warning lights or sounds to alert you when you might be getting too close to an object.
Most rear-view cameras are manufacturer installed, but you can also buy one as an aftermarket upgrade if your car didn't come with one. They come with several options and features so you can tailor your camera and alerts to your needs.
3. Lane Departure Warning
Like the forward collision warning system, this feature allows us to monitor how well we’re staying in our lane using lane-detection technology. If you drift out of your lane, your car can alert you with vibrations, audio or visual cues. Some can automatically take steps to ensure you remain in the proper lane.
Like all automobile features, you shouldn’t rely solely on this system to prevent accidents. Infrared sensors sometimes fail, and these systems are reliant on lane markings. This system might not decipher lane markings which are damaged, obscured or faded.
4. Adaptive Headlights
Adaptive headlights are designed with a camera mounted in the grille of the car that can scan the road ahead of us as we drive. When it spots an obstruction in or along the side of the road, the headlight points towards the object or person, allowing you to better spot trouble as you navigate the darkness.
Adaptive headlights have a limited number of items they can track, but the camera uses heat signatures to help find people and animals and assigns priority to those first. This system also assigns risk to these objects or targets, picking out the highest risk to spotlight. This technology can selectively adjust or turn off LED lights, and it can maintain high-beam lights - although it won’t switch automatically from low to high beams. While adaptive headlights are available on many vehicles, it hasn't yet become a standard feature.
5. Adaptive Cruise Control
This feature uses lasers, radar, or cameras and on-board sensors to adjust your vehicle’s speed in order to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. With it, you can ensure a constant speed in traffic without the annoyance of having to switch your cruise control on or off. More importantly, you'll ensure you remain a safe distance from other vehicles.
Most adaptive cruise control systems are comprised of a single radar system that only detects traffic in front of you. Some of the more complex and expensive systems have multiple sensors to assist with short- and long-term ranges as well as track adjacent vehicles. Some adaptive cruise control systems have brake support and pre-crash assistance to let you know if there’s a risk of a collision. Even more advanced GPS assisted systems can tell if the car in front of you is slowing down to change lanes or exit, or just decelerating – and then adjust your speed accordingly.
Until the self-driving car is a day-to-day reality, we’ll have to live with piloting our own vehicles. At least we can be assured that decades of technological advancements have helped build a safer driving experience. Each year many of these safety features become standard equipment on more and more cars. Hopefully that translates to a safer driving experience for all of us.