If you’re shopping for a new car, you probably have a checklist of features that you can’t do without. If you’re in the market for a new commuter, fuel efficiency is probably near the top of your list. If you have a big family and you’re always on the go, you’re probably looking for something a little roomier. Or you might be in the market for a fun little sports coupe to zip around town in.
Whatever else you’re looking for in a new car, there’s one thing you absolutely should never skimp on: safety. Some safety features have become so commonplace that you almost can’t find a car without them — features like airbags and anti-lock braking systems. As automotive technology advances, though, there are some newer features that you really should look for in any car you consider buying.
Let’s take a look at some of the latest ways your car could help you avoid an accident. We’ll identify some of our favorite features and help you with some of the acronyms and names you might see for them when you go car-shopping.
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
Cruise control is one of the most convenient technologies on the road today, especially for long trips on the highway. However, when driving with cruise control engaged, you always have to look out as you overtake slower drivers. In a lot of instances, it’s just not worth it to turn cruise control on and off constantly. That’s where adaptive cruise control (ACC) is such a great advancement. Using cameras, sensors, radar, and/or lasers, an ACC system doesn’t just keep your vehicle at a constant speed; instead, it varies your speed to keep your vehicle at a constant safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you. If that vehicle slows or stops, your ACC system will slow or stop your vehicle, as well.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Driving with your tires improperly inflated can put you, your passengers, and others at risk. Under- or over-inflated tires can reduce traction. They also run a greater risk of going flat if you hit an obstruction and are more likely to cause your car to hydroplane in wet conditions.
At the same time, we all lead busy lives, and it can be difficult to remember to check and properly inflate your tires on a regular basis. A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) will let you know if one or more of your tires are not inflated to the correct pressure. Then you can easily correct the issue when it occurs and avoid potentially dangerous situations on the road.
Today’s backup cameras not only show you the objects, people, and vehicles behind you, but they also give you a visual guide for where you need to stop before you hit someone or something. They’ve become so popular that they’re included on most base model vehicles, but don’t just assume that every car you look at has one. Always insist on this safety feature, and you could avoid any number of accidents, from small fender benders to more serious crashes.
Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)
AEB is a system that automatically applies the brakes and either slows or stops your car before you hit something. If you’re concerned about backing into a person or another car as you leave a parking space, a backup camera is a great start, but rear AEB will actually stop your car for you. So, if you happen to glance away from your backup camera or if someone runs out behind your car unexpectedly, your car will automatically brake for you. Similarly, front AEB systems apply the brakes when you get too close to a vehicle, object, or person in the road ahead of you.
If you’re concerned about your car automatically braking without warning you, look for a vehicle with forward-collision warning (FCW). The FCW system will give audio and/or visual warnings when you’re approaching something too quickly. If your car has both FCW and front AEB, you’ll get a warning before your car applies the brakes for you.
Lane-Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane-Keeping Assist (LKA)
Like forward-collision warning and front automatic emergency braking, these two features go hand-in-hand. Lane-departure warning (LDW) will give a visual and/or audio warning when you start to drift out of your lane. Lane-keeping assist (LKA) will actually help steer your car back into the correct lane for you.
You may think that these features aren’t necessary, but how often have you had a near-miss when you took your eyes off the road for just a second. While Georgia’s Hands-Free Act prohibits you from holding your phone or texting and driving, any number of other things might distract you from the road. When seconds count, features like these could keep you from drifting into another lane or off the road and getting into an accident. Similarly, some cars now come with lane-centering assist, which constantly assists with steering to keep your vehicle centered within your lane.
Blind-Spot Warning (BSW)
Have you ever started to change lanes only to be shocked by the sound of a blaring horn in your blind spot? We should always check to make sure that there aren’t any other vehicles in the way before making a lane change, but distractions happen. Likewise, if a vehicle is in just the wrong spot, you may not be able to see it as you attempt your lane change. Blind-spot warning lets you know when the lane isn’t clear before you make that potentially dangerous mistake.
While it’s always good to avoid hitting any kind of obstruction in the road, you absolutely want to avoid hitting pedestrians. At the same time, if you’re driving in a walkable neighborhood or district, people can walk out in front of your car at almost any time. And what if you’re stopped at an intersection, looking to the left, and someone starts to walk out in front of you from the right? Pedestrian detection systems sense when a pedestrian is in range of your vehicle. Then, they trigger a warning sound and may even apply the brakes for you.
Finally, alertness monitoring is the very latest in automotive safety tech. It’s not available on all models, but we hope it will become more common soon. This technology uses sensors and cameras to monitor your face and behavior while you’re driving. If you start to nod off or if you’re displaying other behavior that indicates you’re too fatigued to drive, it will alert you so that you can find a place to pull off the road and get some rest before you continue on your way.
These are just a few of the new safety features we’re seeing on more and more new cars. If you’re in the market for a new vehicle this year, ask about some or all of these so that you can make your commute as safe as possible in 2019.