Collision-Avoidance Systems Are Changing the Look of Car Safety

N ot so long ago, it would have seemed incredible that your car would be able to”see” other vehicles or pedestrians, expect collisions, and automatically apply the brakes or take corrective steering actions. But more and more cars can do that to some degree, thanks to a growing list of collision-avoidance systems.

Some of these capabilities, such as forward-collision warning systems, have been around for a few years, largely on high-end luxury cars. Others, like steering assist, are just getting ready for prime time. The good news is that the collision-avoidance systems are getting better and are spreading to mainstream automobiles.

The potential for automobile safety these systems is so great that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has additional collision-avoidance system testing to its package of security evaluations. The IIHS has determined that some of those collision-avoidance systems could prevent or mitigate many crashes. Now, to acquire top overall security scores from the IIHS, a car should have a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking. Moreover, any autobrake system must operate effectively in formal track tests that the IIHS conducts. Visit IIHS website for test results on individual models.

The federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also on board, with an eye on making some collision-avoidance systems mandatory. NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings notice which systems are available on cars they crash-test. Their presence doesn’t affect the Star ratings yet, though.

The cost of collision-avoidance systems may still be an obstacle. Most advanced systems today come only as part of a large choices package or on a model’s higher, more costly trimming versions. Jumping into the trim line at which the security goodies are offered can add thousands of dollars to a car’s price.

Lasers, Radar, and Cameras

These cutting-edge active security systems rely on auto body repair kingston a range of sensors, cameras, lasers, and short- and long-range radar. They monitor what is happening around the vehicle–vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and even road signs–and the automobile itself. Inputs are processed by computers, which then prompt some action from the car or the driver. Those actions may begin with attention-grabbers, like a beep, a flashing dashboard , a tug from the seatbelt, or a vibration in the seat or steering wheel. If the driver doesn’t respond, the more advanced systems then employ partial or full braking pressure.

In our ongoing evaluations we have found that there’s a fine line between a useful electronic co-pilot and a computerized backseat driver. If a warning system emits too many inappropriate alerts, then there is a growing temptation to switch it off.

Not every system on the market now is top-notch. The IIHS has found that some autonomous braking systems are more effective than others. But they conclude there is a net benefit no matter.

A 2009 study conducted by the IIHS found a 7 percent reduction in collision centre edmonton crashes for vehicles using a basic forward-collision warning system, and a 14 to 15 percent decrease for those with automatic braking.

“Even in the cases where these systems failed to prevent a crash, if there’s automatic braking going on, or if the driver does brake in response to a warning, that crash is going to be less severe than it would have been otherwise,” says David Zuby, chief research officer at the IIHS.

In the long run, these systems can do lots of good in preventing crashes from occurring in the first location. However, it’s important for motorists to realize that none of those aids reduces the need to remain alert.

Current Active Safety Systems

Manufacturers routinely use exceptional, marketing-friendly names for their various systems. This makes it confusing to know the system’s full capabilities. When you’re shopping for a new car, be certain you ask what the safety feature does. For a detailed listing of the available systems for every manufacturer, visit our free Car Safety Hub.

Rear cross-traffic alert

Cross-traffic alert kingston auto body shop warns you of traffic approaching from the sides as you reverse. The warning usually contains an audible chirp along with a visual cue in either the exterior mirror or the back camera’s dash screen. The more advanced systems can also pick out bikes and pedestrians.

An illustration of how collision-avoidance systems works.

Forward-collision warning (FCW) and autobrake

Also called a pre-crash warning system, these stand-alone or combined radar-, laser-, or camera-based systems warn drivers of an impending crash by using visual, auditory, or physical cues. Most automobile systems also pre-charge the brakes and take other actions to prepare for impact. If the driver ignores the warnings, systems with autonomous braking, or autobrake, will apply partial or full braking force. They can be busy at anywhere from walking to highway speeds.

Blind Spot Alert

Blind-spot tracking (BSM) and assist

A blind-spot monitoring system uses radars or cameras to scan the areas beside and behind you, searching for vehicles entering or lurking in your blind zones. When such a vehicle is detected, an illuminated icon appears in or near the appropriate side-view mirror. If you sign a turn as a vehicle is in your blind zone, some systems deliver a more powerful alert, such as a blinking light or louder chirps. More advanced systems help keep you in your own lane by applying the brakes on one side of the car.

Pedestrian detection and braking

Pioneered by Volvo and now provided by others, pedestrian detection can recognize a individual straying into a vehicle’s path. Some will automatically apply the brakes, if necessary, sometimes partially and sometimes to a complete halt. Some newer systems can also detect bicyclists.

Adaptive headlights

As you turn the steering wheel adaptive headlights will swivel, which will help illuminate the street when going around curves. A 2014 IIHS study found that adaptive headlights improved drivers’ response times by about a third of a second. That could be just enough to prevent, say, hitting a parked car on a dark street.