Four New Car Safety Features and What the Critics Say About Them

One of the spin-offs from the development of self-driving technology is the expansion of car safety features like infrared cameras and sensors, automatic braking and adaptive headlights. Many car manufacturers are now adding these to their regular models, enhancing car safety. Or are they? Might all those bells and whistles literally distract drivers from seeing what’s in front of them? Here are some of the new features along with critics’ opinions after road testing them.

1. Blind spot warning

A system of sensors and lenses keeps an eye on blind spots on both sides and sounds a warning if there is a vehicle in that location. The warning could be a beep or a whistle, or even a visual warning on the dashboard. Sometimes warnings are activated when a driver uses a turn signal to indicate shifting into an occupied blind spot.

2. Rear and side cameras/ collision warning

These let drivers see what’s on the rear and sides of the vehicle to avoid collisions. Some systems also have forward collision warnings, and may apply the brakes to avoid collision or to reduce the impact. Rear and side view cameras are a asset on SUVs and pickup vans, because these vehicles have large blind zones in the rear.

3. Lane departure monitoring and correction

Sensors and cameras track lane markings and sound an alarm if the car drifts out of lane. Some systems may also manipulate the steering to bring the vehicle back into the correct lane. These systems are not fail safe, however, and the driver does need to stay alert. They may be less effective on country roads where the lane markings are faint or absent.

4. Adaptive headlights

Adaptive headlights swing to the left or right as the car turns to illuminate the corners and avoid hitting any parked cars or pedestrians. The movement of the headlights may be distracting for some drivers.

Overall, critics who have test driven cars with these safety features find their benefits to be a mixed  bag. While certain features like lane departure monitoring and prevention, rear collision prevention and blind spot monitoring may be useful, the multiplicity of alarms and warnings may  themselves become distracting for the driver. Drivers may resort to switching them off, making them altogether redundant. The automatic braking feature is seen as a net advantage, however. The best way for drivers to decide if they want to pay extra for the bells and whistles is to test drive some vehicles. They can do so at a Nissan Altima showroom in Santa Ana and other locations.