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The Amazing Safety Features on New Cars Today

Shopping for a new vehicle? Watch for these high-tech systems that may be available as either standard or optional features.

A view over the shoulder of a man driving a modern car with many new safety features.

Safety systems on vehicles have come a long way from the era of simple seatbelts and power brakes. These days, exteriors—and sometimes the interiors—are peppered with sensors and cameras to help fend off calamity. While these features are a great assistance to drivers, they of course don’t take the place of old-fashioned skills and focus—every driver still needs to be alert and pay attention to everything around them on the road.

Here are some of the most notable recent safety features to find their way onto mainstream cars and trucks.

Adaptive cruise control

A dashboard view of the adaptive cruise control setting shows how much space is between the cars.

Systems to maintain a set speed in one’s car have been around for decades. Adaptive cruise control does the same task, but also maintains a set distance between your vehicle and the one ahead, thanks to a network of sensors and cameras. If the car in front of you slows down, the system will match its speed. This helps maintain a safe following distance. Originally appearing on luxury cars like Mercedes and Audi, this tech is now available on mainstream models like the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota Corolla.

Collision warning and automatic emergency braking

An illustration shows the range of the sensors that determine when automatic braking is needed.

Vehicles featuring this technology will sound an alarm if they sense an impending frontal crash. Brakes are applied automatically or applied harder to assist drivers who are already hammering the stoppers. This technology has become so mainstream it is even available on certain trims of the budget-minded Hyundai Accent. Some cars may have one of these safety features but not the other, so read your owner’s manual carefully.

Lane assistance

An illustration shows the range of the sensors that determine when a car is veering too far out of its lane.

This safety feature detects when a car is drifting out of its lane, typically with the use of a camera but sometimes using other technology. It requires clearly painted lane markings and works by making a small steering correction or by applying a slight degree of braking to the front wheel opposite the one about to drift out of the lane. Drivers aren’t completely off the hook—when the correction occurs, they must center the vehicle in its lane of travel. Many family vehicles, such as the Honda CR-V, are available with this feature.

Night Vision

A dashboard screen shows the night vision camera as it captures cars nearby

Yes, some cars have a cat-like ability to see in the dark. In most nighttime conditions, a dedicated infrared camera, likely mounted in the vehicle grille, is able to identify people and large animals via heat signatures. These objects are then displayed and highlighted on a dashboard-mounted screen to help drivers avoid collisions. The new Cadillac XT6 offers this technology, enhancing safety in the dark by alerting drivers to potential hazards.

Keep reading

In the market for a new—or new to you—vehicle? Check out our car-buying guide in the spring 2020 issue of CAA Magazine

Image credit: why kei/Unsplash, Wikipedia Commons, Chesky_W, AVIA BavARia