Automotive Technologies That Improve Driving Safety

In the market for a new car? These are the current must-have automotive technologies that can improve driving safety and save lives on America’s roadways. 

Technology often gets a bad rap as a distracting influence for drivers (#DontTextAndDrive). But the other side of the coin is that modern technology is meaningfully advancing road safety.

Okay, perhaps the trend toward complicated touchscreen vehicle control centers doesn’t advance the cause very much, but increasing technology is being used to facilitate greater road awareness and help guard against driver mishap.

Here’s a selection of helpful technologies that can enhance road safety, and better protect you, your passengers, and fellow travelers. If you’re in the market for a new car, give these technologies due consideration.

Backup camera & sensors

The backup camera is a significant breakthrough and recently received Uncle Sam’s full endorsement.

As of May, 2018, all new passenger cars sold in the U.S. must include a backup camera.

The NHTSA is hopeful the new requirement will help prevent some 200 deaths, and 14,000 injuries per year that occur during “backover” accidents.

If you’ve ever operated a vehicle with a backup camera, the value is obvious. Particularly with large trucks and SUVs, it can sometimes seem like what’s occurring behind the vehicle is in a different zip code. Not to mention, even for vigilant drivers there are unavoidable blind spots below the liftgate/tailgate.

The backup camera creates much-needed connectivity, and allows for awareness of what’s going on behind the vehicle – from the ground up. Plus it’s just so darn convenient, and will surely reduce the number of vehicle on vehicle parking blunders too.

Backup cameras typically come in conjunction with backup sensors that give an audible warning signal if objects are in the backup zone. So even if you’re not tuned into your mirrors or the camera, the system can alert you to a potential hazard and prompt you to hit the brakes.

 Blind Spot detection & warning

Check side view and rear view mirrors, blinker on, turn head to check the vehicle’s blind spot before changing lanes.

It’s a protocol that’s drilled into every driver’s ed student to this day, but the blind spot continues to cause problems. According to the NHTSA, there are some 840,000 blind spot accidents each year.

Many drivers fail to properly adjust their side view mirrors, others skip the all-important head-turn. Whatever the reasons, the need for modern technology to “cover” for ongoing blind spot error is clear.

Generally, blind spot detection systems work by illuminating a light in the vehicle’s side view mirror whenever a vehicle is in the blind spot. If the driver begins to change lanes anyway, the system produces an audible signal allowing for correction.

Automatic emergency braking 

Expert speculation is the widespread implementation of automatic emergency braking systems could cut rear-end collisions in half.

Similar to the blind spot detection systems, automatic emergency braking systems utilize sensors to first warn of an impending collision ahead. However, unlike blind spot detection systems that count on the driver for correction, automatic emergency braking systems will intervene with actual brake application should the driver not heed the warning.

Even in situations where a collision can’t be avoided because, well, physics, automatic emergency braking systems can reduce the vehicle speed at the point of collision, and therefore (hopefully) the severity of the impact.

Automatic emergency braking systems were first implemented in the premium/luxury vehicle segment, but the technology is now becoming more common. Ford, for example, aims to have an automatic emergency braking system on half their U.S. vehicles in 2019, and as standard equipment by 2022.

Adaptive cruise control 

Especially over the course of long drives on the highway with cruise control set, momentary lapses in attentiveness can occur. Unfortunately, it only takes a second or two at highway speeds for circumstances to drastically change.

Adaptive cruise control helps “cover” for these human moments by adjusting the vehicle speed both up and down according to the flow of traffic. The system works to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle ahead no matter how much (and how abruptly) speed fluctuates.

Trailer backup assist 

Have you ever gotten into a jam when trying to back up a boat or other trailer? The steer/counter-steer maneuvering and counterintuitive movement of the trailer can be a real challenge. Combine this with a restricted space and you have the potential for a headache and danger to anyone in the vicinity.

Trailer backup assist resolves this by taking the steering wheel confusion out of the equation. Instead of sawing at the steering wheel, very basic left-right movements of a knob direct the trailer. Just turn the knob in the direction you’d like the trailer to go. The vehicle manages all the steering wheel work. Check it out:

Hill descent control

Hill descent control allows you to focus solely on steering in steep off-road descent situations. Without hill descent control, off-road descents involve significant brake control, modulation, and effort. A brief miscalculation of brake pressure could set the vehicle in motion at a faster pace than ideal or safe, and if the descent is steep enough, recovery (deceleration) is not possible.

With hill descent control, the driver sets the speed of the descent beforehand and the vehicle maintains the set speed using both the brakes and drivetrain. In certain vehicles, that speed can be as low as 0.2 mph, and is adjustable as the descent is underway. (In the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk the up and down shift paddles adjust the descent speed in 0.2 mph increments.)

Now you’re up to speed on modern technologies that can improve driving safety, but are you also aware of the massive influence of tires on vehicle performance and safety?

Modern vehicle safety technologies can’t be effective if tires are mismatched to road conditions, not maintained, or expired. Here are some of the basics:

How (and why) to do a quick tire safety check

How to measure tire tread depth

All Season Tires vs Summer Tires


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