Top Electronic Safety Systems You Simply Cannot Do Without
New and used car buyers today will be pleasantly surprised by the advancement of safety features in modern vehicles if it’s been over five years since their last vehicle purchase. Previously, many electronic safety and convenience features were limited to luxury vehicles. Now, you’ll find a wide range of options in even the most inexpensive compact and economy models. To assist you in your vehicle search, we’ve compiled a list of the top electronic safety systems that you absolutely cannot do without in 2021.
How Electronic Safety Features Have Changed Over Time
Vehicle safety has come a long way since the first automobiles were developed in the late nineteenth century. Brake systems were included in some of the first cars invented, but they consisted of simple wooden blocks and a single lever that the driver used to slow their vehicles to a stop. They were primarily used on vehicles with steel-rimmed wheels, from horse-drawn vehicles to steam-driven automobiles. From there, brakes slowly evolved to mechanical drum brakes and hydraulic brakes, and again to the disk and anti-lock brakes we see in today’s vehicles.
Other safety features, such as seatbelts, turn signals, and windshield wipers, were introduced in the early to mid 1900s. Traditional automakers such as Ford and GM began implementing these features one by one while developing proprietary systems of their own. During this time, vehicle crash tests were performed to ensure passengers would be safe in the event of an accident and identify new areas for improvement. By the 2000s, basic safety features were standard on all vehicles manufactured or sold in North America.
Electronic Safety Features to Consider When Buying a Car
When you begin searching for a new vehicle, be on the lookout for the following electronic safety features.
Like brake systems, cruise control has come a long way since its debut on the automotive market in 1948. Cruise control allows the driver to keep a constant speed without having to apply pressure to the accelerator. There are a few different versions of cruise control that offer varying levels of functionality.
Traditional Cruise Control
Traditional cruise control is the simplest type and is available on nearly all North American vehicles. It allows you to set a maintenance speed, but you’ll need to steer and apply the brakes if necessary, as your vehicle will not stop or turn the steering wheel in case of changing road conditions. While this version of cruise control is a great way to save fuel, it also requires more human control than the others.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Like traditional cruise control, adaptive cruise control (ACC) allows you to set a speed that your vehicle will maintain. However, ACC uses internal radars and lasers to help maintain a safe gap between you and the car in front of you. The system will also slow to a complete stop if the vehicle in front of you does the same. This makes ACC a great option for drivers who often find themselves in stop-and-start traffic.
Semi-Autonomous Cruise Control
Semi-autonomous cruise control is the latest in cruise control technology and is found in a few select luxury brands such as Audi and Tesla. It works very much like ACC but will steer your car through turns and change lanes if necessary. The driver still needs to intervene if the car fails to identify debris and other objects in the road while driving. However, semi-autonomous driving is a great way to take the strain out of long-distance driving and heavy traffic jams.
Blind Spot Warning
For those who travel primarily on high-speed highways and in adverse weather, blind spot warnings are essential. Using multiple cameras located around the vehicle, this system watches adjacent lanes and will alert you if another vehicle is hidden in your blind spot. Generally, a small light in your side mirror will illuminate, letting you know that another vehicle has been detected nearby. This way, you won’t need to perform uncomfortable blind spot checks; you’ll also be sure you won’t accidentally but dangerously cut off another driver when changing lanes.
Cross-traffic alert uses the same sensors that trigger a blind spot warning to notify you of traffic that may be behind you as you reverse. When backing out of a space, a vehicle equipped with a rear cross-traffic alert system will provide a warning light and/or sound to indicate that a car or truck is in your path. It may, however, fail to alert you of smaller objects like motorcycles, bicycles, or pedestrians.
Lane Keeping Assist
If you find yourself having trouble staying within your lane, lane keeping assist is the perfect automotive safety feature for you. As its name implies, the system will detect whenever your vehicle veers from its designated lane and gently steer it back to where it should be. It is not foolproof, as it generally works best on roads with clear, well-defined street lines, which may not be common in rural regions. However, it is incredibly useful on highways and city streets.
Lane departure warnings are a less advanced version of a lane keeping assist system; they will warn you when you are drifting out of your lane and prompt you to steer back into your lane. Usually, this warning comes in the form of a steering wheel or seat vibration and/or a noise from your vehicle’s speakers.
Forward Collision Warning
Using similar mechanisms to cruise control, forward collision warning works very much like a rear cross-traffic alert system, except that it notifies you of collisions that may be impending in front of you. Forward collision warning systems will not take full control of your vehicle but will monitor your speed and the speed of the vehicle in front of you; it will notify you if a crash is imminent. Vehicles with this technology generally provide drivers with an audible alert, visual display, or another type of warning signal.
Automatic Emergency Braking
Automatic emergency braking (AEB) does exactly what its name suggests. The system uses sensors in your vehicle to sense when a potential collision is coming. If you do not react, the AEB will activate, and the vehicle will begin to brake for you. If you don’t identify the hazard in time, the car will come to a complete stop. Although some consumers complain about oversensitivity in the system, AEB systems can dramatically reduce the severity of an accident or even prevent one in the first place.
Unlike AEB, brake assist is activated as the driver is already applying pressure to the brakes. The system will add an increased brake response for quicker stopping when necessary. While both are useful for preventing crashes, a vehicle that only has brake assist will still require human input to be effective.
Parking presents challenges to many drivers, especially when the space may seem a bit too tight for the vehicle you’re driving. Parallel parking can be an even greater obstacle for those who don’t live in the city and may not be used to performing the maneuver on a regular basis. If you’re one of these people, parking assist systems were made just for you! Using ultrasonic sensors, parking assist will seek empty spots and ensure that they’re long and wide enough to fit your vehicle. When it finds one, it will actively steer itself into the space while you steadily apply pressure on the accelerator and the brake. Simpler parking assist systems may emit a sound while parking to notify you if you get too close to bumping into another vehicle.
Backup Camera or Surround View
A backup camera is arguably one of the most important modern safety features you can have on a vehicle today. In fact, the Government of Canada made backup cameras mandatory on all new vehicles sold after May 1st, 2018. Instead of having to physically look back while reversing, this technology allows you to see a live image of anything that may be behind your vehicle. This was mandated to protect small children and the elderly, who may not be seen or are moving at a slower pace and may not be able to quickly get out of the way of a reversing car. Surround view works in a similar fashion, giving you a 360-degree view of everything surrounding your vehicle.
Ultimately, there are countless new safety features that automakers have introduced to the market over the past decade. Some are more useful than others, but every feature on this list is one you absolutely cannot live without. Some electronic safety features, such as backup cameras and traditional cruise control, are standard on all vehicles made in the 2010s, but others may require you to purchase higher trim levels to gain access to the protection they provide.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the above nine safety features when you begin searching for your next new or used vehicle. Need more help? Don’t hesitate to refer to this guide early and often to help you decide on a car that’s perfect for you and your driving habits!