Safety is the single most important part of a vehicle. Sure, as car lovers, we live for taking a car around a turn, down shifting, and smiling while we accelerate. And of course nothing enamors us quite like the great design of a beautiful sports car, or the innovative technology of the newest vehicle.
But ultimately, cars are about one thing: getting you from Point A to Point B. And if they can’t do that safely, then they can’t do it at all.
As technology increases and the automotive landscape evolves, nothing has grown as much as the safety features in vehicles. Cars are a lot safer now than they were five years ago, dramatically safer than they were 15 years ago, and an entirely different animal than they were 50 years ago. And it’s great to watch unfold.
Why safety features matter
We don’t really need to explain to you why safety features are important. The more safety features you have, and the better they are, the safer you will be when you drive your car. But it’s not just about you: safety features also help keep the passengers in your car safe, and they help keep pedestrians and other drivers safe, as well.
No matter how good of a driver you think you are, you can always use some added safety. You can always use safety features that go above and beyond. They say you can never be too careful, and when it comes to your safety when driving a 4,000-pound machine at 60 MPH, that really is the truth.
While safety features used to simply protect you in the unlikely event of an accident, modern safety features serve to help you prevent those accidents from ever happening. More and more modern safety features are geared towards accident prevention, rather than injury prevention. This is a good thing, and an important step in the evolution of automotive safety.
How safety features keep getting better
Safety features keep improving, but that shouldn’t be surprising: everything in cars keeps improving. It’s not just safety. We see bigger engines, better handling, prettier designs (though that’s more debatable), better speakers, better navigation systems, brighter lights, and increased fuel economy, every year. And since safety is the most important part of the vehicle, it only follows that we’d see a lot of evolution in that area as well.
Car owners have started to really prioritize safety features when making a purchase. This has forced companies to adapt, evolve, and improve, so that they can stay competitive. If all the consumers are flocking to one company because of its safety features, the other companies have no choice but to improve their product.
This natural evolution and sharpening of iron against iron ensures that the safety features and elements in vehicles will only improve as we continue to move forward.
Ten of the best modern safety features
The safety features that adorn modern vehicles are nothing short of amazing. Some of them are simply brilliant, and we’re enamored with all of them. Here are our ten favorite modern safety features.
Drowsiness Alert is the type of safety feature that we would never have thought was possible, until it started being made. The concept of this feature is very simple: when the vehicle notices that you might be drifting off towards sleep, it lets you know.
Driving while drowsy is very dangerous. Even if you’re still awake, your reflexes begin to lessen, and your response time starts to lag. You might feel awake and aware, but you’ll drive more like you’re sleepwalking. Needless to say, this is very dangerous.
The Drowsiness Alert system monitors your actions, and detects when they suggest you’re close to falling asleep. This feature relies on patterns, and when you begin go be less responsive, move the steering wheel less frequently, sag on the throttle, and shift less in your seat, the vehicle’s computer determines that you may be too drowsy to drive safely. More often than not, they’re right.
Every car has a different way of displaying that you’re drowsy. Some cars will simply illuminate a warning light on the gauge cluster, while others will take stronger approaches to get your attention, such as with a continuous ding.
This feature can keep you from driving when you’re simply not a safe driver, so it’s great in our books.
Blind Spot Warning
Anyone who drives is all too familiar with blind spots. Blind spots are those tricky areas towards the back of your car on each side, where you can’t see by using the rear view mirror and the side view mirror. If you rely on only your mirrors, you miss a complete section of the road. If you then try to change lanes, you’ll crash directly into the vehicle that’s been lurking in your blind spot.
You learned about blind spots when you got your learner’s permit. You learned about blind spots when you got your license. You learned about blind spots every day for the first year that your parents were in the car when you drove. And yet, still, you probably find yourself losing cars in the blind spot all the time.
So auto manufacturers decided to do something about it, by creating a Blind Spot Warning. The Blind Spot Warning feature is really simple. The car uses detectors on either side of the vehicle to determine when a car is in your blind spot. When a vehicle is in your blind spot, and icon is displayed on your vehicle’s dashboard, so you know that there’s a car in the location.
This is helpful for two reasons. The first is that, as mentioned, cars get easily lost in your blind spot. If you’re only relying on your side and rear view mirrors, you’ll quickly get into an accident without this feature. The second is that you’re taught to look over your shoulder before changing lanes, to check your blind spot. While you should do that if you don’t have Blind Spot Warning, it’s really dangerous to take your eyes off the road for that long, and twist your body like that.
Lane Keeping Assist System
The Lane Keeping Assist System is one of our favorite safety features ever. For starters, it’s simply really cool. But more more importantly, it’s a feature that gives us a lot of comfort and security when we’re driving. No doubt the Lane Keeping Assist System has saved a lot of lives, and it makes us a little more comfortable driving knowing that this feature has our back.
The concept of Lane Keeping Assist System is to keep your car in your lane at all times. If you start to drift out of your lane accidentally, the Lane Keeping Assist System will redirect you back to where you belong, and where your car is safe.
This feature depends on the lines in the road to sensor where the car is relative to the lanes. So if the lanes aren’t clear, either because the paint has faded or because it’s covered in snow, the feature may not work properly. If it is working, however, here’s what will happen. When the vehicle notices that your car is drifting out of the lane, it will alert you, either by ringing a chime or vibrating the steering wheel. Most of the time that people drift out of the lane, it’s because they temporarily spaced out. A noise or vibration will bring you right back to the car. If it doesn’t, then the vehicle will correct the car for you, and slowly bring you back into your lane. It will keep you driving safely in your lane until you begin steering once again.
Rain sensors may seem more like a luxury feature than a safety feature, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Rain sensors, while not a typical safety feature, play a huge role in keeping you safe when you’re on the road.
Rain sensors do exactly what it sounds like they would do: they detect when it’s raining. When the sensors determining that rain is coming down, they automatically turn on the windshield wipers for you. Depending on the intensity of the rainfall, the windshield wipers will be adjusted to the correct speed.
So why is this a safety feature? Obviously it’s unsafe to drive with wet windows that aren’t being wiped, but you can manually control the wipers in your car, right?
Well, yes, you can, but it’s an added distraction. And time you have to take your eyes of the road, and your hand off the steering wheel, you’re putting yourself in danger. And that’s double true when it’s raining, because the roads are slippery and the visibility is bad.
You’ll never be able to limit all of your distractions when you’re driving. But rain sensors can help you eliminate one of them, and every little bit counts.
Collision Avoidance System
What could possibly be better for safety than a feature that is literally named “collision avoidance”? Isn’t that the whole purpose of safe driving, to avoid collisions?
Thankfully, the Collision Avoidance System lives up to its name. In theory this safety feature is really simple. Your car uses some combination of sensors, lasers, and cameras to determine how close you are to the car in front of you. If you start to rapidly approach the car in front of you, and your vehicle determines that you’re in danger of crashing into them the system will go to work.
In some vehicles, this means that the car will make loud warning noises at you. That way, if you’ve been spacing out or dozing off, you can regain alertness, and hit the brakes in time to avoid the collision. However, if you have a newer car with autonomous features, the car may handle avoiding the collision for you. Rather than alerting you and hoping that you gain alertness quickly, many vehicles will simply hit the brakes for you, or, if you’re in serious danger of a collision, steer for you to avoid the car in front of you.
It’s not hard to see why this is one of our favorite features.
Heads Up Display
It’s inevitable that every now and then you’ll have to take your eyes off the road. But you should try to limit that as much as you possibly can. Every moment that your eyes are off the road is a moment that you’re not giving safety your full attention. Anything can happen in a split second when you’re driving; that moment when you glance away from the road could be the very moment that the driver in front of you slams on their brakes, or the driver next to you starts to merge in your lane.
A great feature to increase the amount of time you spend looking at the road is a heads up display. A heads up display is a system that displays information onto your vehicle’s windshield, right in your line of sight. For many vehicles this means the navigation system is projected right in your eyesight, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to see what your next step it. However, these displays can also give you your speed, the speed limit of the area that you’re driving in, and lots of other important information that you’d normally have to look away for. Bluetooth is also an important safety feature that complements this set up as it means you’ll be able to focus better on the road.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive Cruise Control (often referred to as Autonomous Cruise Control) is a safe twist on a very common feature. And it’s one of the features that we rely on the most, as we use Adaptive Cruise Control all the time.
With standard cruise control, you set the speed of your vehicle, and take your foot off the gas. The car then maintains that speed until you hit the brake pedal, which turns the cruise control system off.
With Adaptive Cruise Control, you don’t have one set speed. Instead, the system simply keeps you a safe distance behind the car in front of you. Often, with the old cruise control system, you’d have to brake hard when your cruise control was set for a higher speed than the car in front of you. If they started to slow down, you’d risk rear-ending them, so you had to get your foot on the brake immediately.
But Adaptive Cruise Control handles all of that for you. When the car in front of you slows down, your car will slow down. When the car in front of you picks up speed again, your car will pick up speed again. Computers have faster response times than people, and that’s on display with this safety feature. And it’s one of the reasons why it’s one of our favorites.
The backup camera is one of the coolest automotive features around. Just think about it: it’s a camera, attached to the outside of your car, that gives you a live feed on the inside of your car, so that you can safely drive through areas that you can’t see. How cool is that?
Cool factor aside, the backup camera provides a lot of safety for drivers. With a backup camera, you can see parts of the road that you would never see when backing up normally. If, for instance, a child is playing in the road directly behind you, you wouldn’t be able to see them without a backup camera, because the rear fender would get in way. If there’s an obstacle in the road that you need to avoid, or you’re about to hit something while in reverse, the backup camera can save the day.
Ultimately, backup cameras are for more than just safety. They make parallel and reverse parking a breeze, and can help you navigate through tight spots. But above all else, the cameras make your car safer, and make you a safer driver. And if you ask us, that’s what safety features are all about.
Rear Cross Traffic Alert
As much as we love rear cameras, there’s only so much they can do. A camera mounted above your rear license plate is going to give you a pretty good view of what is directly behind you, but not a whole lot else. That means that if danger is lurking behind you and to the side, you may never know about it.
Unless you have the Rear Cross Traffic Alert feature, that is. This feature lets you know when a car, or another large object, is going to move into your way when you’re in reverse. The feature relies on sensors, and occasionally cameras, to determine when a car is about to come into your path. When rear cross traffic is approaching, the vehicle will let you know with a loud alert noise, as well as an illuminated warning on the gauge cluster.
Rear cross traffic is impossible to spot without this kind of technology. That’s part of why we love these new safety features; they not only give you backup, but they provide things that no human could ever do. That’s a sign of taking safety to the next level.
Pedestrian Detection System
The Pedestrian Detection System in your car isn’t going to save your life; but it might save someone else’s. And if someone has this feature in their vehicle, then that might end up saving your life.
This is another one of those safety features that we can barely wrap our heads around. It’s the kind of feature that would have been unthinkable 15 years ago, yet here we are, offering it on many affordable vehicles.
A Pedestrian Detection System tells you when there’s a pedestrian that may be in your vehicle’s path. Using advanced sensors, stereoscopic cameras, and radar allows the vehicle to determine when someone is in the road up ahead. If the car detects that there is a person in the path of the vehicle, then one of two things will happen. Either the car will chime at you while flashing a warning light, so you know to slow down, or, if the car has some autonomous driving features, it will begin to slow down the moment it detects the people.
Unfortunately, accidents between vehicles and pedestrians are common, for a variety of reasons. With the Pedestrian Detection System, you can dramatically limit the chances of you being in a horrific accident with a pedestrian.
The automotive landscape is improving and evolving every single day. And at the heart of it is the most important aspects of the automotive world: safety. Cars have come a long way in terms of safety, but huge improvements are made every year, and that trend is going to continue for a long time.
Modern safety features are truly mind-boggling. The technology in vehicles today is stunning, and is saving lives every single day. Now, instead of engineers simply focusing on how to make a vehicle be able to withstand a crash, they’re focusing on how to make the vehicle avoid the crash altogether. It’s remarkable the innovations that we’ve seen. We can’t wait to see what comes next.