Driver assist technology and safety features have evolved greatly over the years with the goal of making your experience behind the wheel both easier and safer. And, while they aren’t a substitute for careful, attentive driving, they can certainly help you avoid a potential accident. Here are some of the most common systems you might come across during the car shopping process, as well as a quick rundown of what each one does:
Adaptive Cruise Control
Adaptive cruise control alters the speed of your car when it detects a slower car ahead of you. Rather than having to use the brake and turn cruise control off, it automatically lowers your speed to keep cruise control engaged. Many of these systems will also allow you to set a distance to keep between you and the car in front of you, and some will even bring the car to a complete stop when necessary.
Active Park Assist
Active park assist utilizes radar to assess a parking spot and automatically steer the vehicle into it. Depending on the model, this system can apply to parallel spots, perpendicular spots or both. Be sure to remain alert of your surroundings while using active park assist because it can be tripped up by surrounding objects.
Active Head Restraints
Active head restraints automatically move in a rear collision with the intention of absorbing the force of your head to help mitigate whiplash and head injuries.
Automatic Emergency Braking
Automatic emergency braking alerts you of a potential forward collision and will engage the brakes automatically if you don’t react in time and a crash is imminent.
Blind Spot Monitoring
Blind spot monitoring systems alert you via an indicator on your side mirrors when there’s a vehicle in your blind spot on either side, so you know that it’s not safe to merge. Some systems will also provide a secondary warning if you attempt to merge when it detects a vehicle in your blind spot.
Forward Collision Warning
Forward collision warning detects when a front-end crash might occur and alerts you, so you know to hit the brakes immediately. Depending on the model, this system may or may not come with automatic emergency braking. In either case, take the time to recognize when this system activates so you know to react quickly.
Lane Departure Warning
Lane departure warning will alert you when it detects the vehicle is in danger of inadvertently veering outside of a road’s lane markings, so you know to straighten the vehicle. This system is sometimes combined with lane keep assist.
Lane Keep Assist
Taking lane departure warning a step further, lane keep assist will automatically straighten the vehicle if it starts to veer outside of lane markings and you don’t react quickly enough. Some vehicles may alert you when this system activates, but some will simply straighten the vehicle without providing a notification.
Parking sensors alert you when your vehicle is close to making contact with another vehicle or object. These help you get close to surrounding objects without touching them to help simplify the parking process.
Pedestrian detection systems use cameras to identify pedestrians or cyclists and alert you when they’re near. Some systems will also automatically brake when they detect a pedestrian in close proximity.
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
Rear cross-traffic alert will notify you when it detects movement behind the vehicle while it’s in reverse. This helps you identify when it’s safe to begin backing up, especially out of a spot in a crowded parking lot.
Rear seat reminders alert you that there may be a person, animal or object in the rear seat before you exit the vehicle. However, they generally don’t detect the presence of one of these. Instead, they’ll identify when a rear door is opened and closed before a trip, then remind you that there may be something in the backseat when you turn the vehicle off. Members of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, which together account for nearly all vehicles sold in the U.S., have agreed to add rear-seat reminders to their entire lineups by the 2025 model year.