With every model year, automobiles become sleeker and more high-performance machines, but are they getting any safer? A number of automakers are, to their credit, incorporating cutting-edge safety technologies. The top 10 onboard safety systems include:
1. Blind spot detection/collision warning: This technology warns you about vehicles, objects or people that are in your blind spot as you drive or park. Usually, it will respond when you put on your turn signal. If it detects an obstruction, it may flash a light in your mirror, cause the seat or steering wheel to vibrate or sound an alarm.
2. Side-impact airbags: Often, side-impact collisions cause the most devastating injuries. These are also known as broadside or T-bone crashes and commonly occur at street intersections when someone runs a red light or fails to yield right-of-way. Side-impact collisions are different from frontal collisions because in a frontal collision, the car’s crumple zone can help some of the impact. But in a side-impact collision, the passenger or driver only have the thickness of the car’s door for protection. Side-impact airbags can help absorb the blow and protect occupants from contact with hard surfaces.
3. Tire pressure monitoring: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required that all American passenger vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less be equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system by the 2008 model year. Sensors in the wheels alert occupants with an audible tone, instrument panel light, or both if air pressure drops below safe levels.
4. Adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation: Modern cruise control technology does more than just maintain a constant speed. Sensors and radars adjust the throttle and brakes to help you keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you. The systems even adjust according to prevailing traffic speed. If the sensors detect a possible collision, the brakes are hardened and seat belts tightened. When the lane becomes clear, or the traffic speeds up, the vehicle automatically returns to its original speed.
5. Electronic stability control: These are systems that use several electronic sensors to monitor the driver’s intended path and the actual direction the car is headed. Should these two begin to diverge, the system’s computer will essentially apply the individual brakes and reduce engine power to restore control. These systems play a significant role in reducing rollover accidents.
6. Rearview camera: Rearview cameras not only protect your own car from damage, but prevent back-over accidents, especially those involving young children. A camera works in tandem with the the navigation system to provide a wide-angle shot of the view behind the vehicle.
7. Lane departure warning: This system judges an approaching vehicle’s speed and distance to warn you about potential hazards if you switch lanes. It can also caution you if it senses that your car is wandering outside of your designated traffic lane. This warning could come in the form of a vibration through the seat or steering wheel or an audible alarm.
8. Emergency brake assist: This brake technology is different from an antilock braking system in that it recognizes when the driver makes a sudden or “panic” stop. The system will apply additional brake pressure in these cases to help shorten the stopping distance.
9. Daytime running lights: Daytime lights are a low-cost method to reduce crashes. They are especially effective in preventing head-on and front-corner collisions by making the vehicle more conspicuously noticeable from a greater distance.
10. Emergency response:Auto manufacturers have developed a number of different technologies to handle emergency situations. For example, Volkswagen’s emergency system switches on hazards and disconnects the battery terminal from the alternator in the event of a crash, while GM’s Onstar and BMW Assist both alert their respective response centers and make crash details available to emergency personnel.
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