Top 3 New Car Safety Features to Keep You Alive on the Road

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The 2021 Acura TLX dashboard shows a road departure mitigation warning, one of the safety features that is part of the advanced driver-assistance systems. Image credit: Honda

Today’s modern vehicle is a computer filled with safety technology to make driving safer. Whether a car is in your blind spot or has stopped suddenly in front of you, the technology is ready to take over to avoid a crash. 

This technology is known as ADAS, or advanced driver-assistance systems. Every vehicle on the market has at least one of these as a standard feature, with other safety features as optional add-ons. While electric vehicle adoption has only reached 2% after a decade in the market, ADAS is closing in on 75% of the market, according to Tyson Jominy, Vice President of Data and Analytics at J.D. Power, the data analytics and market research company.

“Adoption of ADAS has been rapid,” Jominy said. “These features are very cool, and cars can do a lot of things now, but they may be difficult to fully appreciate until you own the vehicle. However, the need for a test drive is increasing, even as test drives are going down.”

Tyson Jominy, VP of Data and Analytics, J.D. Power/Photo Credit: J.D. Power

It’s essential for new car buyers to test drive vehicles to learn about the safety features.  

“Cars are talking to us a lot now,” Jominy said. “They’re continuously alerting you to things on the road. They’ll make your life easier and keep you alive, but it may create a new type of environment you have to get used to.” 

Anti-lock braking systems, or ABS, the beginning of ADAS, prevent a car’s wheels from locking up under hard braking so drivers can maintain more control and limit their chances of skidding. ABS became prevalent in the 1990s and was standard in the 2000s, he said.  

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced in 2014 that all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds were required to have rear-view cameras by 2018. Since then, the latest technology added to ADAS has increased dramatically as car manufacturers move to provide a foundation for self-driving vehicles. 

Since J.D. Power’s goal is to help brands improve the value of their products and services so that consumers can make purchase decisions easier, here are the three top ADAS features Jominy said will keep you safest on the road: 

  1. Blind spot indicator: When there’s another vehicle in one of your blind spots, a light on the outside mirror or a light inside the car glows to let you know there’s a car in your way. Depending on your vehicle type, your vehicle may even beep or vibrate your seat. These alerts are meant to prevent you from hitting another car. The blind spot indicator technology took off around 2016 and is in about 50% of vehicles today.  
  2. Lane departure warning: This warning will keep you from drifting into another lane without signaling. It will nudge your vehicle back into your lane and keeps the car centered in the middle of the lane. This technology works best at highway speeds but works at slower speeds, too. Some vehicles have audible alerts as well. One of the challenges with these systems is that sometimes the computer for the lane departure warning is a little abrupt. When consumers are distracted, swerving between lanes is one of the top indicators of deadly situations, Jominy said. This technology is in 45% of cars today. 
  3. Collision avoidance: This technology involves a couple of features, including front collision warning and automatic emergency braking, and is comparable to the blind spot indicator. Your vehicle will monitor what’s in front of you and slow you down. If you’re coming close to a car too quickly and you haven’t braked, it will brake for you. On some vehicles a “Brake” light on the dashboard alerts you to brake.
    This technology tends to be one of the most intrusive features and is standard on all Toyotas and Hondas. According to Jominy, while it may be a bit intrusive, it helps the vehicle err on the safe side. “It may be thinking that there’s a danger when the human brain can see that the danger has passed,” he said. “It may be something that consumers ignore, but it’s hard to argue when you look down to change your radio station, adjust a setting, or talk to a passenger. During these simple distractions, your car can brake, down speed and avoid a dangerous situation on its own.” Nearly half of all new vehicles have collision avoidance.

While these safety features are designed to avoid dangerous situations, consumers need to remember they must still be vigilant and avoid distractions such as texting. 

“There are no true self-driving cars today. Consumers tend to believe their cars are more capable than they are,” Jominy said. “Some vehicles allow you to take your hands off the wheel, but even Tesla recommends you keep your hands ready to take over. We are still very much in a hands-on, minds-on, eyes-on industry.”

If consumers turn off these features in their vehicle, they likely won’t remember to turn them back on. This technology is something you need to learn how to manage and get used to, he said.

“I recommend you find the tolerances that work for you, but not to fully turn them off,” Jominy said. “If you get in an accident now, with all the sensors in your car, a simple fender bender or hitting the side mirror can now become a very costly replacement. I recommend leaving these features on so you’re not only safe, but you avoid any costly repairs.”   

Hayley Ringle

Hayley Ringle

Hayley Ringle has been an automobile enthusiast since her first motorcar love, a no-frills, air-cooled, orange 1976 VW Super Beetle. Hayley now enjoys driving her limited-edition Release Series 9 ride, an orange 2012 Scion XB, with vanity license plate HOTLAVA. Hayley’s fondness for cars stems from her dad’s love of British sports cars and her years working at an auto parts store while in college. She has written professionally for Phoenix-area newspapers for over 20 years, covering every subject imaginable, including Scottsdale’s car auctions and the Valley’s vehicle proving grounds. Her dream car is a Jaguar E-type roadster featured in the 1971 cult classic film “Harold and Maude.”