Automotive safety has certainly come a long way in the last half century. While the initial focus was on occupant protection via crash-absorbing engineering and multiple airbags spread throughout the passenger cabin, later systems like antilock brakes and stability control focused on keeping the driver from losing command of a car during emergency braking and handling situations.
The latest high-tech safety features aim to prevent collisions altogether. Utilising a variety of sensors and cameras to monitor the road, some will warn a motorist to react potential problems, while the best of the bunch will all but take the wheel out of a driver’s hands to prevent hitting another vehicle, or even pedestrians and bicyclists in a vehicle’s path.
Adaptive Cruise Control
This high-tech twist on one of the most familiar automotive technologies, also known as Intelligent Cruise Control, leverages forward-looking sensors to maintain both a vehicle’s set speed and a safe distance from the traffic ahead at highway speeds.
Available on most cars, rear-view monitoring systems will be required on all new vehicles in 2018. A small bumper-height camera sends an image of what’s behind the car or truck to a dashboard mounted display when reverse gear is engaged for easier parallel parking and, more importantly, to help a driver spot and avoid hitting other cars and pedestrians.
Here, sensors or cameras will trigger an alert if there’s another car to the side and rear of the vehicle the driver might not otherwise be able to locate in a side mirror. Typically, a warning light illuminates at either side of the dashboard or within the mirrors whenever another vehicle is residing in the motorist’s blind spot, and the system will issue an audible alarm if the driver engages the turn signal. Many such systems include a Cross-Traffic Alert system that will issue an audible warning if other cars are approaching while backing out of a garage or perpendicular parking space.
Forward Collision Warning
Also called Pre-Crash Warning, Forward Collision Alert, or Automatic Collision Preparation, depending on the brand, this system uses sensors or cameras monitor the distance between a vehicle and traffic or other obstructions in its path. The same hardware is also used in a vehicle’s adaptive cruise control system. Basic systems will engage visual, audible, and/or tactile alerts if it determines the car is closing in at a potentially hazardous rate of speed.
Forward Collision Warning With Auto-Braking
The best forward-collision systems take action and will automatically apply the brakes to avoid (or at the least reduce the effects of) hitting another vehicle or obstruction if the driver isn’t reacting quickly enough. These systems are known by many names depending on the automaker, and include Autonomous Emergency Braking, Emergency Brake Assist, and Intelligent Brake Assist, among others.
Lane Departure Systems
Designed to keep an inattentive driver’s vehicle from inadvertently wandering into an adjacent lane, a Lane Departure Warning system uses cameras to monitor highway lane markers and will trigger an alert if the car is crossing them unless the turn signals are engaged.