Car safety has evolved well beyond seatbelts and airbags, though these basic safeguards are still extremely important. The most exciting safety developments in recent years concern the rise of driver-assistive technology. These systems use lasers, radar and other technology to provide flawless support for drivers, sensing hazards they may have missed and working to actively prevent accidents and promote safer travels.
Below are five life-saving car safety features that work diligently and effectively to help you avoid mishaps when you’re behind the wheel. They’re all excellent examples of the most vital and current advancements in driver-assistive technology.
1. Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
Sometimes accidents happen before you even hit the road. If you’re backing out of a driveway or a parking space, you don’t always have a clear view of approaching traffic. Rear cross-traffic alert uses sensors in the vehicle’s rear bumper to assess the lay of the land, and these sensors detect oncoming traffic that may not be in the driver’s sightline. If traffic is detected, this system issues a warning letting the driver know it’s unsafe to continue the reverse maneuver. Rear cross-traffic alert facilitates greater safety and takes a lot of the stress out of executing rearward maneuvers in situations that are unfamiliar or difficult to assess.
2. Blind Spot Monitoring
The blind spot is the bane of every driver’s existence when navigating traffic. A blind spot is that patch of road a driver can’t see when looking straight ahead or consulting the side and rearview mirrors. If you’ve ever begun to change lanes only to slam on the brakes after realizing the space you were attempting to occupy was already taken by another vehicle, you know how treacherous blind spots can be. A blind spot warning system works to see what is unseeable when your gaze is focused on the road ahead. These systems use sensors to determine if there is another vehicle on either side of your car, and they issue a warning to help you avoid something unpleasant. A blind spot warning system is an essential tool for modern drivers, and it takes the uncertainty out of changing lanes in traffic.
3. Adaptive Headlights
When you’re traveling down a serpentine road on a dark night, standard headlights can make it difficult for you to illuminate what lies around the bend. Adaptive headlights – also known as dynamic bending headlights – offer a useful solution. These headlights use electronic sensors to sense changes in the position of the steering wheel and angle themselves to match the direction in which a car’s wheels are aimed. While standard headlights always point straight ahead regardless of the path the car is taking, adaptive headlights are always in alignment with the direction in which your vehicle is traveling.
Many adaptive headlight systems also come with a self-leveling feature. Self-leveling headlights can sense if a car is angled up or down, and they adjust the tilt of the beam accordingly. For example, if you’re traveling over a speed bump, your car will be briefly tilted upward as it crests the bump. Standard headlights would be pointed upward in this moment, but self-leveling headlights would quickly tilt downward to adjust for the car’s angle, enabling them to keep their beam planted on the road ahead.
According to statistics published by the National Safety Council, 62 percent of all traffic fatalities occur at night. Adaptive headlights work quite powerfully to keep the path ahead well lit after the sun goes down, and in so doing, they help make nighttime driving a lot less dangerous.
4. Driver Drowsiness Detection
If you’re driving while fatigued, your reflexes behind the wheel will be impaired, and this can place you in dangerous situations. The statistics regarding this issue are cause for concern. According to poll data gathered by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of drivers have driven while feeling drowsy and 37 percent have actually nodded off while piloting a vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates driver fatigue is responsible for about 100,000 accidents each year.
Driver drowsiness detection uses an array of technologies to determine whether a person is driving while fatigued, and it issues a warning if it concludes the driver shows signs of exhaustion. The driver’s steering patterns are monitored, and cameras may be used to sense whether the vehicle is staying in its lane or frequently drifting out of it. A camera may also be used to monitor the driver’s eyes and face. Certain driver drowsiness detection systems link with the car’s navigation system to let tired drivers know the location of the nearest rest area.
5. Collision Avoidance Systems
Collision avoidance systems use sensors such as cameras, lasers and radar to quickly determine if a collision is imminent. If these systems conclude your vehicle is about to collide with another object, they issue a warning. Many collision avoidance systems also come with autonomous braking. These systems will automatically hit the brakes if it is determined your vehicle is about to strike another object. This works to either prevent the collision or mitigate its effects.
Years ago, when driver-assistive technology first appeared, it wasn’t widely available, and it was limited mainly to more expensive models.
These days, the picture has changed, and this technology is now offered by virtually every major manufacturer. You’ll find driver-assistive features on a wide range of makes and models, from value-priced Kias to top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benzes. These features are often offered as optional equipment, and their ability to foster a safer driving experience makes them worth the investment.