With automakers offering an increasing array of safety technologies, drivers sometimes find themselves struggling to stay up to speed with the systems in their cars.
Some of the devices have been around a decade or more but have only become common in the past few years. A new campaign, MyCarDoesWhat.org, by the National Safety Council and the University of Iowa attempts to help educate drivers on the new vehicle safety technologies. Others are still available primarily in high-end vehicles.
Here is a quick description of some of them:
- Backup cameras. After a driver shifts into reverse, the camera activates to display what’s behind. The display screen may be on the center console, in the rearview mirror or even in the sun visor. Most new cars now come with this feature.
- Adaptive cruise control. In addition to maintaining a cruising speed, these systems can automatically slow or accelerate the car to maintain a constant distance behind the vehicle in front.
- Blind spot monitoring. Sensors on the sides or rear detect vehicles in the vehicle’s blind spot, and a warning signal, usually yellow or red, flashes in the side mirrors. Some cars also have a lane-side view camera. When the driver flips a turn signal, a screen displays what’s in the blind spot on that side of the vehicle.
- Lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist. Cameras under the car read the painted lines on the road. If the car starts to drift or swerve, a light flashes or a warning sounds. Flipping on the turn signal overrides the system. Lane-keeping assist goes a step further and automatically turns the steering wheel to bring the car back into its lane.
- Rear cross-traffic alert. These are designed to address one of the biggest limitations of backup cameras, which display only what is directly behind a car. They use sensors to warn with a beep or a light in in the rearview mirror that there is traffic approaching from the side.
- Forward collision warning or mitigation. Using sensors and cameras, this warns drivers with a flashing light or audible alert of an impending front-end collision. The idea is to get the driver to brake earlier to prevent the crash or lessen its severity. Some systems do more than warn, actually applying the brake if the driver doesn’t act quickly enough.