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Car Safety Features You Want To Get When Buying a Car

The automotive industry has come a long way. Not too long ago, major safety features on a car only included 3-point seatbelts, airbags, traction control and anti-lock brakes. Today, there’s so many advanced technologies designed to keep you as safe as possible on the road that not every car owner knows all that comes with their vehicle.

This car reviews article will explain the most useful and high-tech safety features that you should consider before buying a car, depending on the type of driver you are. That said, remember that a fully present driver beats even the most advanced technologies. So, put your phone away and never answer a call or reply to a text while driving. 

Parking Assist, or Parking Guidance System

Even the veteran drivers dare not lose focus when attempting the challenging quest of parallel parking. Not giving it 100% of your attention and you’ll bump the cars nearby or hit the curb. Manufacturers know this well, and came up with another super handy technology to make street parking less of a nightmare: parking assist.

parking assist
Parking assist feature in BMW. Photo Credit: Design Blog by PLATFORM

This feature also bears various names, including parking guidance system, park assist, parking assistant, and active park assist. Park assist is an automated feature that uses computer processors tied to multiple sensors, including ultrasonic sensors, plus camera-based solutions and other technologies which might be too high-tech to explain here, in order to direct the car to steer itself into a tight parking space with minimal help from the driver. Yes, you read that right. Like, at the push of a button. All you need to do is watch. This technology is useful in both reverse parking and parallel parking.

In a nutshell, the processor uses the many special sensors to determine the steering angle and displays this information on the touchscreen. As the vehicle shifts into reverse, the backup camera is activated so that the driver can see behind, and the park assist function is activated. 

As for parallel parking, as the driver shifts into reverse and selects the parallel park button, the parking space will appear on the screen with a grid with lines and several adjustment arrows. You only need to adjust on the screen and once the alignment is ideal, all you need to do is press the OK button, let go of the steering wheel and press down on the brake pedals. As the car backs into the designated space, let go of the brake slowly.

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Blind spot monitoring

While there are car features these days that are borderline unnecessary, blind spot monitoring might be considered a must-have. Especially handy when you’re turning, a visual or sound warning will notify you when there’s a vehicle in your blind spot. This will make turning and changing lanes so much more fuss-free.

Safety Exit Assist

This safety feature, as seen in the recently introduced Hyundai Sante Fe SUV, is for families with small children. Safety Exit Assist is an extension of the blind spot monitor system. It uses sensors and cameras to detect when vehicles and moving objects in general are approaching from behind and temporarily stops kids from opening the back doors. It’s been gaining popularity among parents of young children.

360-Degree Camera

You might have known that all vehicles sold in the US market are required by law to have backup cameras. They are used for backing into and out of a parking lot, since they operate like an extra pair of eyes that can look into a driver’s blind spots. It’s 2021, and auto makers have upped the game with 360-degree camera systems with superior visibility.

This technology can bear many names given by different manufacturers, like bird’s eye view, multi-angle view, surround view and surround vision. The system basically employs several cameras, which are viewed on a single dashboard screen, and allows the driver to have a 360-degree of their surroundings. 

You might think that your backup camera is adequate, but if you have to navigate crowded parking lots daily, this advanced camera system will make your life much, much easier. Another nightmare of every driver, that is parallel parking, will be much more manageable too. 

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Forward Collision Warning (FCW)

Forward Collision Warning
If vehicles get too close to another vehicle or obstacle ahead, a FCW will alert the driver. Photo Credit: BabyDrive

If we’ve already talked about blind spot monitoring, then it’s only natural to follow with forward collision warning. Like its name suggests, this technology is designed to alert drivers if they are too close to the car in front and any other potential hazards for forward impact. 

It uses a combination of cameras, radar and laser to detect obstacles ahead, its speed, its trajectory and the distance between it and your vehicle. Taking all these information as input, coupling with the speed of your own vehicle. If the distance to a vehicle ahead is closing too quickly, it will alert the driver with an audio or visual cue.

Other than collisions while turning, rear-end collisions with a vehicle in front is a very common type of car accident (think of how many times you’ve spotted front and rear damages on cars in the parking lot), and they can happen very quickly. in part because of how quickly they can occur. You only need to let your mind wander for a few seconds and before you know it, the vehicle in front is stopping or slowing down and you would be braking too late. 

Pedestrian Detection

This technology is like a hybrid between the previous forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems. A pedestrian detection system, as the name suggests, is specifically designed to detect pedestrians and cyclists with the use of multiple radar sensors and cameras.

The system can actively monitor the distance and direction of any pedestrian or cyclist that is heading toward the vehicle. If needed, it will alert the driver and  automatically activate the brakes to prevent an impact.

Anti-locking braking system (ABS)

Abrupt braking can cause uncontrollable wheel skidding, which will make the driver lose control of the vehicle. Like its name suggests, an anti-locking braking system is an automated safety feature that keeps a car’s wheels rotating instead of being locked, thus avoiding uncontrollable skidding and letting you maintain control in an emergency stop. 

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Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)

It’s a given that there are times when you must brake abruptly to avoid a collision with a passing pedestrian or a wild deer, or a disabled vehicle on the road. However, hazards might happen so quickly and you might not react in time. For emergencies like this, or a deer in the roadway, automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to help safely bring your vehicle to a stop, or at least minimize the severity of the crash.

When a potential hazard for forward crash is detected by the multiple sensors and cameras, an AEB system automatically applies the brakes. This is entirely automatic, so as to make up for any lag in human reaction time. 

As above, forward collision is among the most common types of auto accidents. Realising the importance of the AEB system, 20 major auto manufacturers have committed to making the system mandatory by 2022. The US’ Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that these systems will cut down 28,000 forward collision cases a year by 2025.

 

Lane Keeping Assist

You might have heard of the term “lane departure warning” as well, which should not be confused with “lane keeping assist”. Lane departure warning feature was introduced earlier, thus by now, it is more common and standard. That said, lane keeping assist has been widely used nowadays for its usefulness, so it is now almost just as popular.

Lane departure warning systems were designed to keep the absent-minded or fatigued drivers from unintentionally leaving the lane, which happens more than you would think. When the car is leaving its lane, there will be either sound and/or visual alerts on the car’s mirrors to notify the driver. 

However, if you are changing lane intentionally, these alerts might be down right annoying. This is how lane keeping assist is more advanced. The visual and/or audio signals only get activated if the vehicle is crossing over into another lane without the driver turning on the blinker. So you only get notified if you’re crossing lanes due to absentmindedness, or when you forgot to turn on your blinker when changing lanes, which is another common driving mistake. 

The most recent lane keeping assist systems offer more safety insurance: it even self-corrects the car’s steering to gently get the car back toward the centre of the lane it’s on.

 

Electronic Stability Control

There are multiple cases where you can lose control over your vehicle, such as abrupt turning to avoid a forward collision or when you have underestimated the sharpness of a curve. In situations of extreme maneuver, which are very common, the Electronic stability control (ESC) system can be a real lifesaver. Also referred to as electronic stability program (ESP) or dynamic stability control (DSC), this is a computerized system designed to maintain a car’s stability. 

The ESC is beneficial in many ways. In the case of sudden and extreme steering, it can automatically engage the brakes to prevent the vehicle from driving off the road or steering into the wrong lane. In addition, in the case of loss of traction, it can detect strenuous driving conditions and help the vehicle regain stability using various measures, including reducing the engine’s power to safely slow the car down.  

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Adaptive Cruise Control

Traditional cruise control systems are a handy feature for maintaining a steady speed on the highway. They essentially take over the throttle of the car to maintain a steady speed as set by the driver. However, they can be a pain to use off the highway, that is in stop-and-go traffic when every vehicle isn’t traveling at the same pace or at a somewhat consistent speed. 

Manufacturers have taken the conventional cruise control systems a step further to make them “adaptive” to the actual speed of the surrounding traffic at a certain time. Adaptive cruise control (ACC) systems use an array of built-in sensors to detect the distance between your vehicle and the one in front of it, then maintain a safe gap by automatically accelerating or braking when needed.

When the car ahead slows down, so will your car, but without you having to adjust anything. In the case that the car ahead brakes, many ACC systems will even bring your car to a complete stop without you stepping on the brake pedals. That means some extra help in avoiding forward collision and much less stress in frustrating stop-and-go traffics.

All-Wheel Steering

You should already know that the rear wheels do not always turn in the same direction as the front wheels, that is before the invention of all-wheel steering or four-wheel steering systems. This system allows the four wheels to turn in the same direction, thus improving a vehicle’s steering response time, overall handling and stability at higher speeds. 

All-wheel steering technology is a particularly useful feature in emergency situations when it’s easy to lose control over your vehicle, like when a pedestrian unexpectedly shows up, or turning on wet or icy roads, driving on tough terrains, being stuck in a patch of snow, or hiting ice while driving. 

Not just in emergencies, but you will also regain stability easily when hitting a pothole or be able to drive in high winds with minimal swaying. Another benefit of this technology that many drivers do not know is when you need to change lanes quickly on the highway while on cruise control. All-wheel steering allows for smooth lane changing with minimal turning of the wheel and minimal acceleration while still maintaining your speed.

Another benefit of an advanced four-wheel steering system is improved braking, and a representative example is Acura’s RLX sedan featuring a Precision All-Wheel Steering system, which controls the wheels to point inward for a clean and stable stop.

Differential

When a vehicle turns, the outer wheels have to rotate faster than the inner wheels to cover more ground at the same time. Therefore, all cars need to have two crucial components: the differential and the driveshaft. They allow the four wheels to rotate at different speeds by distributing different amounts of engine torque to each wheel. 

The front differential is located between the two front wheels and serves to distribute the engine’s power to the front wheels, while the rear differential is located between the two rear wheels and serves to distribute the engine’s power to the rear wheels. Each differential actually consists of a set of gears to get the job done.

The front differential is directly connected with the engine, since the engine is located in the front of the car. Meanwhile, as the engine is far away from the rear wheels, the driveshaft is needed to connect the engine with the rear differential and transfer the engine’s power to the rear differential. In general, a driveshaft is a mechanical part used to connect other components of the system that cannot be connected directly due to distance or other reasons. 

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Limited Slip Differential

Limited slip differential is an upgrade on the conventional differential system with the aim of helping the car quickly regain stability in wet and slippery conditions. It does this by reducing the engine’s power sent to the wheel which is losing traction while increasing the power sent to the other wheels with good traction. 

In other words, it redistributes torque from the wheel that slips or is raised off the ground to the other wheels. Meanwhile, with the standard differentials, if one wheel is slipping or raised off the ground, it will spin while the wheels in contact with the ground will remain stationary. More control and stability also means less wear and tear on tires. 

If you want to check whether your car has this handy feature, jack it up and spin one of the rear wheels. If the other wheels rotate in the same direction, then your car indeed has a limited slip differential system. 

Adaptive Headlights

Driving at night is something every driver wants to avoid. Limited visibility is an extra headache on curvy roads. This is where adaptive headlights feature comes into play. Standard headlights always point in one direction, so when you’re taking a turn, the headlights will be illuminating the side of the road. Meanwhile, with the advanced adaptive headlights, you will actually see where you’re heading. 

Adaptive headlights make use of sensors to measure a driver’s steering inputs, then accordingly adjust the angle of the headlights to the road ahead, so the driver can have a better view of where they’re going. 

OBD II

Every modern vehicle has this industry-standard port. It is designed to provide access to data from the engine control unit (ECU) for on-board diagnostics. You can plug diagnostic equipment into the ODB II port to get a reading of how your car is doing. This port is utilized by many app makers for automotive diagnostic and performance review apps.

The OBD II is very convenient and is widely used, for example, when a driver notices a problem with their vehicle and would like to have some understanding of what might be wrong before taking the car to the mechanic. 

All modern vehicles are equipped with this port. Specifically, all cars and light trucks manufactured in the United States after January 1, 1996 were required by law to have OBD II. It has become a standard feature for many major car makers too. If you’re not sure, look for a sticker or nameplate under the hood that reads “OBD II Certified” or”OBD II compliant”.

Facial Recognition Software

2021 wouldn’t be 2021 without face, fingerprint and voice biometrics. You might have caught wind of the new 2021 Cadillac XT4 designed for the Chinese market, which comes with a host of high-tech features, including a new facial recognition system, called Face ID, as well as fingerprint and voice for access, ignition and control. 

If a Cadillac is too out of your reach, here’s the good news: facial recognition software is starting to make its way into some affordable models like the Subaru Forester. It constantly keeps track of a driver’s alertness and triggers a buzzer or audio signals to “remind” the driver when it sees that you’re not keeping your eyes on the road. 

This is one of those technologies that carmakers are pushing to become standard equipment within the next few years, like ABS for example. In the future, we are expecting to feel the vibrations on our seats when we look at our phones while driving.

New 2021 Models with the Best Safety Ratings

If you want to know which models are considered the safest by industry standards, you can look for vehicles that scores well at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s crash tests.

With funding by the insurance industry, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts crash tests to evaluate two aspects of a vehicle’s safety: crashworthiness, that is how well the occupants are protected in an accident, and crash avoidance and mitigation, that is how well the vehicle’s technology can prevent a crash or at least lessen the impact. There are six tests in total to judge various aspects of a vehicle’s safety. 

To earn their highest award, the IIHS Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle needs to score Good ratings in all six of those tests, gets  an Advanced or Superior rating for crash-prevention systems, and gets a Good or Acceptable rating for headlights. For 2021, the models that have won this award are as follows, and this list might be a good starting point if you’re looking for as many safety features as you can afford: 

  1. Acura TLX
  2. Audi A6 and A6 Allroad
  3. Audi A7
  4. Genesis G70
  5. Genesis G90
  6. Honda Accord
  7. Honda Insight
  8. Kia K5
  9. Lexus IS
  10. Mazda 3 Sedan and Hatchback
  11. Mazda 6
  12. Nissan Altima
  13. Nissan Maxima
  14. Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
  15. Subaru Legacy
  16. Subaru Outback
  17. Tesla Model 3
  18. Toyota Camry
  19. Volvo S60 and S60 Recharge
  20. Volvo V60 and V60 Recharge

 

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