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Safety Tech 101: Advanced Driver Assistance Systems Cheat Sheet

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/17/2015 Karla Sanchez

BLIS, ACC, LDW, FCW. When it comes to advanced driver-assistance systems, all the acronyms can become extremely confusing, especially if you don't have the slightest clue about all the safety features available in newer cars. These features have started becoming increasingly important to consumers in recent years, and manufacturers continue to develop even more sophisticated systems, such as animal and pedestrian detection. Until then, brush up on some of the more common advanced safety features and what they do.

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Blind-Spot Monitoring

2015 Honda Fit© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Honda Fit Blind-spot monitoring is starting to become available on a wide variety of non-luxury vehicles. With blind-spot monitoring, virtually all systems show a warning light on the exterior mirror or pillar when an object is detected in your blind spot. Most systems will also beep at you if you try to signal into that lane. Honda has even taken the blind-spot monitoring up a notch with its Lane Watch system, which decreases the passenger-side blind spot by displaying the view on the touchscreen when the driver signals into the right lane.

Lane Departure Warning

2014-buick-lacrosse-lane-departure-warning© Provided by MotorTrend 2014-buick-lacrosse-lane-departure-warning Lane departure warning systems use cameras to "see" the yellow and white lines on the highway and will chime at you when you start wandering outside those lines. Most systems will beep and flash some lights in the instrument cluster, but some vehicles will go the extra mile to grab your attention by vibrating your seat. The warnings are only triggered if you start to cross over the lines without signaling, and most systems can be deactivated.

Lane Keep Assist

2016 BMW 7 Series Prototype Connecteddrive Lane Keeping Assistant© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 BMW 7 Series Prototype Connecteddrive Lane Keeping Assistant Lane keep assist is different than lane departure warning in that it utilizes intervention. Instead of just beeping at you, the system will gently nudge the car back into its lane if it senses you are drifting into another lane that has a car in it. Some cars have more aggressive systems in which the car will steer itself into the correct lane, while some Infiniti and Mercedes models gently apply the brakes to bring you back in your lane.

Forward Collision Avoidance

Forward Collision Alert Graphic Buick© Provided by MotorTrend Forward Collision Alert Graphic Buick This safety feature is exactly what it sounds like. Using radar, sensors, lasers, and cameras, this system lets drivers know when they're approaching an object too fast with audible and visual warnings, vibration of the seat or steering wheel, or a combination of the three. Some vehicles will even try to minimize the impact of a crash by priming the brake system's hydraulic lines in preparation for a hard stop. The seat-belt pretensioners will even lock up to better prepare passengers for a crash. Some vehicles try to avoid an accident altogether by using automatic emergency braking in which the car gently applies the brakes to avoid a crash if it senses the driver hasn't done so in a timely manner.

Rear Cross-Traffic Alert

2013 Nissan Altima© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 Nissan Altima A rearview camera usually shows drivers what's directly behind them, but rear cross-traffic alerts offer extra protection by combining the camera with radar to alert the driver of potential hazards when backing out of a spot. Some systems issue audible-only warnings, while others also issue a visible warning on the backup screen. Infiniti's Backup Collision Intervention even depresses the brakes if the driver doesn't do it in time to avoid a collision.

Adaptive Cruise Control

2016 BMW 7 Series Prototype Adaptive Cruise Control 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 BMW 7 Series Prototype Adaptive Cruise Control 02 Self-driving cars won't hit the market for a while, but cars on public roads are already demonstrating a type of autonomous driving with adaptive cruise control. This feature works just like cruise control, except it's much smarter since it measures traffic in front of the car using radar or laser sensors. If your car starts approaching a slower-moving car, adaptive cruise control will slow it down and maintain a safe distance between both cars. If the other car moves out of the way, it will bring your car back up to speed again.

Adaptive Headlights

2016 BMW 750Li xDrive© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that adaptive headlights are one of the more effective safety features available on cars. That's because they increase visibility in dark areas, with the headlights moving in the same direction the steering wheel is turned. This allows the headlights to bend around dark curves, which can make driving through dark canyons safer and much more fun. Automakers such as BMW continue to improve this feature with laser light technology, while Carnegie Mellon University has worked on "smart" headlights that virtually make rain drops disappear by predicting where raindrops will fall and then deactivating light beams that would normally bounce off drops. Active high beams could also supplement adaptive headlights, as they automatically turn on when it's really dark and turn off when they detect lights from oncoming traffic

Automatic Emergency Braking

Hyundai Automatic Emergency Braking© Provided by MotorTrend Hyundai Automatic Emergency Braking Automatic emergency braking usually comes as part of an advanced safety suite that also features some type of collision avoidance. If the system senses a crash is imminent, it will engage the brakes and issue a loud beep or visual warning to alert the driver to intervene. The systems in certain vehicles can even bring the car to a complete stop without the help of a driver. Like rearview cameras, it's possible this tech could start being offered as standard equipment on mass-volume cars rather than just premium cars. The IIHS found that automatic emergency braking in collision avoidance systems reduced the frequency of collisions, which explains why Nissan is offering the feature as standard equipment on all its cars in its domestic market in Japan.

Attention Assist

Mercedes Benz Attention Assist Instrument Cluster Warning© Provided by MotorTrend Mercedes Benz Attention Assist Instrument Cluster Warning It's hard not to imagine that your car has a mind of its own, especially when it can sense that you're falling asleep. In this case, a driver alert system will flash lights at you and sound a chime to help you remain alert. Mercedes-Benz's system gets to know your driving style and is tipped off by steering wheel movements that suggest you're drowsy.

volvo-city-safety-highway-2© Provided by MotorTrend volvo-city-safety-highway-2
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