Technology has come a long way in the automotive industry. Cars are now equipped with an array of safety features that were once unthinkable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 35,766 people died in road traffic collisions in 2020. The introduction of technology reduces the margin for human error and ultimately makes the roads safer. Between 2000-2020, the rate of fatal car accidents per 100 million miles in the US has fallen from 1.53 to 1.34.
Features like seatbelts and airbags were once seen as revolutionary and have drastically reduced the number of accidents and injuries caused on the roads. From 1975 to 2017, seat belts have saved approximately 374,276 lives in the US, according to the NHTSA.
In this article, three experts from AutoVillage have revealed how car manufacturers strive to keep us safe – without even thinking about it. As cars get smarter, even the simplest of tech may be overlooked by the most veteran of drivers. They have listed the top potentially life-saving features on the market today.
Dan Powell, the Senior Editor at AutoVillage, says:
“If you are considering buying a new or used car, then safety will be an important priority, but getting your head around the latest terminology and tech can be a little overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this top 10 list to help car buyers make the most informed decision when it comes to choosing their next vehicle.”
1. Crash Detection
Ford has introduced an Automatic Crash Notification System for vehicles that are Bluetooth enabled and have smartphone integration. The system automatically notifies emergency services if an accident causes airbags to deploy or shut off the fuel pump. An introductory message is played to the operator and after this hands-free communication is initiated, emergency services can then use the cellular network to track your vehicle’s GPS position.
The ‘Golden Hour’ is crucial to emergency services. This is the window of time after an incident where medical intervention offers the highest chance of survival, so a prompt response can mean the difference between life and death. With the use of this technology, accidents can be reported as soon as they occur, alerting emergency services even if the victim is unresponsive.
Lawrence Allan, Car Expert says:: “Ford was one of the first to introduce this vital feature, but it’s become commonplace with other car brands in the last few years. It’s the best kind of safety tech for drivers: You may never know it’s there, but when it’s needed, it could well save your life. “
2. Drowsiness Detection
Volvo has plans to introduce in-car cameras that assess the driver’s alertness by monitoring their eye movements. This is part of their Safety Vision that aims to combat intoxicated and distracted driving. If the vehicle detects the driver’s being distracted, it will issue warning signals. If the driver does not respond to those signals, the vehicle intervenes. These interventions include limiting the vehicle’s speed, alerting the Volvo on Call assistance service, and finally slowing the car to a stop and safe parking.
3. Blind Spot camera system
Many modern cars have blind spot monitoring, which flashes a light or emits an audio warning to alert you if you’re about to cross the path of a vehicle in your blind spot. But certain Hyundais and Kias will display a live camera feed of the area in your blind spot in the instrument display when you signal to see if the lane is clear.
Lawrence Allan: “Hyundai and Kia’s camera feed blind spot monitoring is brilliant. Some warning-based systems in other cars can be over-sensitive, but with this system, the feed shown on your dials allows you to assess the hazard for yourself. It’s not distracting, either.”
4. Lane Assist
Lane assist is a safety feature that is designed to reduce the chance of accidents caused by drifting lanes. It uses a camera to detect where the road markings are about your vehicle, and if you begin to veer across lanes, it will flash up a warning on the dashboard. In some cases, it will direct the car for you into the middle of the lane, which minimizes the risk of a crash occurring.
5. Anti-Collision Warning System
An anti-collision warning system uses radar sensors to determine the distance between yourself and the car in front. If the vehicle detects that you may be getting too close or the vehicle in front brakes harshly, it displays a warning and, in some cases, initiates the brakes. As the vehicle has a faster reaction time than any human, it significantly reduces the severity of accidents and aims to help avoid them altogether.
6. Remote parking
A study conducted by Skoda UK in 2020 revealed that 11%, or 3.74 million, drivers had damaged their cars whilst looking for somewhere to park. Some high-end models are now fitted with remote parking if you’re struggling to fit your large SUV into a compact parking space. For example, with the top-spec Kia Sorento, you can line your car up to the space, get out and remotely reverse into the space by holding a button on the keyfob. You can do the same to drive it back out.
Andy Brady, Editor says: “Most parking spaces were designed for much smaller cars than we’re used to today. Many new cars come with an array of features to make parking easier, from simple parking sensors to a reversing camera; many will even reverse in or out of a parking space at the touch of a button.”
7. Dashboard Warning Lights
The warning lights that appear on your dashboard are all color-coded in terms of their severity and indicate whether the car is safe to drive. For example, the blue headlamp is displayed when your lights are on full beam. Amber warning lights are more severe, they indicate that there is a fault that should be taken note of immediately. The vehicle will likely be safe to drive to the garage, however, you should always seek professional advice first. Red warning lights are the most serious, this indicates that there is a serious fault with your vehicle that is putting both yourself and other road users at risk. You should pull over immediately, and safely, and contact roadside assistance to resolve the issue.
8. Traffic Jam Assist
Many drivers are used to adaptive cruise control, which speeds you up or slows you down on the motorway, depending on what the car in front is doing. But did you know this system also works in traffic? Many modern systems will actually work at low speeds and can bring you to a stop, only requiring you to brush the throttle to get it going again. It’s designed to help vehicles maintain a safe distance and stay within the speed limit, allowing the vehicle to warn the driver about a potential collision in time to react safely.
Lawrence Allan: “This feature is a godsend in the kind of snarled-up traffic queues you often see on UK roads. Although it only works on automatic cars, it helps to reduce stress by dealing with the constant stop-start motions for you. Shortly, the UK government will pass legislation for some of the most advanced versions of this to allow hands-free driving in motorway traffic.”
9. Automatic headlights
Sensors in the car detect the ambient light level and automatically switch the lights on automatically. The car can do it for you if you constantly forget to turn off your full beams. Some vehicles can detect when a vehicle is approaching and adjust the headlights not to dazzle the oncoming traffic.
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10. Tyre wears bars and pressure alert
Many tires have wear bars that are positioned at 1.6mm within the grooves to show you when the tread is nearing the legal limit. Worn tires are particularly dangerous when wet; the braking distance can increase by up to 44%. This is due to the tread depth being unable to disperse water as efficiently, reducing your tires’ grip on the road. Modern vehicles also have a feature that alerts you when your tires deflate below a certain level and need air. Not only does this help you maintain the tires and keep them safe – but it also helps improve your fuel economy.
Andy Brady: “The tires are your car’s only contact point with the road. You can have all the safety systems in the world, but if your tires are worn or underinflated, it could be a disaster waiting to happen. Fortunately, while we’d encourage regular checking of your tires, systems are on hand to ensure you don’t inadvertently drive on unroadworthy rubber. All new cars sold since 2014 must, by law, be fitted with a tire pressure monitoring system that notifies you when a tire’s pressure drops below a certain limit.”
From the mundane to the amazing, modern cars have several features that help make driving easier and safer. From the dashboard warning lights to automatic headlights, these features are designed to keep you informed about what’s going on with your car and to help you avoid accidents. If you’re considering purchasing a new car, be sure to research which models come with these helpful features.