New Cars *Are* Getting Safer – Don’t Believe What You Read

Ford safety technology

The news is full of gloomy stories these days when it comes to automobiles. It might even be enough to make make you think driving an automobile is becoming more dangerous.

There is, for instance, the recent fatal collision between a Tesla Model S and a semi trailer. And the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said last year was the deadliest on the nation’s highways since 2008.

It’s enough to make you want to swathe yourself in plastic bubble wrap and never leave the house.

But new cars are getting safer, thanks to a host of new technologies. The best part is you’ll probably never have to consciously use most of them, but you’ll nevertheless be glad they’re there.

One case in point would be automatic emergency braking, or AEB, which will be standard on 99% of new cars sold in the United States by 2025 (with some manufacturers like Subaru planning to become compliant by 2022).

AEB helps prevent crashes or reduces their severity by applying the brakes before many drivers even realize a crash is coming. The system uses vehicle sensors like radar or cameras to detect potential threats, warn the driver, and apply the brakes if the driver can’t react quickly enough.

Lane-departure assist is another safety feature that’s becoming more common. Available on vehicles like the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, it uses various sensors to keep the vehicle centered in its travel lane. This feature isn’t to be confused with lane-departure warning, which simply warns you when the vehicle begins to leave the travel lane. Lane-departure assist can actually nudge the vehicle back into the lane. Combined with adaptive cruise control, which keeps a set distance between you and the car in front of you, lane-departure assist can almost make a vehicle self-driving.

But lawyers have gotten involved, because autonomous vehicles aren’t currently permitted. To that effect, the lane-departure assist system actually warns you when your hands have been off the steering wheel for more than 10 seconds.

Why are systems like lane-departure assist important? After all, how often do you leave your own lane of traffic? A lot, as it turns out: according to the Auto Insurance Center (via Business Insider) the leading cause of fatal crashes in most states is failure to stay in the proper lane.

And while this new technology may not save your life, it could very well save someone else’s. Ford offers a safety feature called Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection. As the company explains, the new technology detects people in or near the road ahead or pedestrians crossing a vehicle’s path (though it requires daylight and clear weather). When it spots a pedestrian and a collision seems imminent, the driver gets an audible and visual warning. Should the driver not respond, the system readies the car for braking by reducing the gap between brake pads and discs. If all else fails, the system automatically applies the brakes and reduces the vehicle’s speed.

All these safety solutions employ a camera mounted inside the windshield, near the rear-view mirror.

Don’t fall prey to all the media reports that make driving out to be more dangerous than ever. New cars are becoming safer. It’s just drivers who make bad choices you have to worry about.

– Keith Griffin

What do you think is the most important safety technology in new cars?

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1 Comment

  1. At this point I’ve fully expected some sort of tech that disables texting while driving. But I’m not sure that could be done without disabling all the other phone functions that use data. The AEB stuff makes me nervous though.

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