Modern car technology can actually help drivers avoid accidents. The latest technologies include night vision thermal imaging, infrared radiation, multiple cameras with computers, radar detection and interior projection screens.
There are several impressive options for protecting yourself in a vehicle, depending on the car model and the amount of money you’re willing to spend on the technology. Note that some of the feature descriptions overlap because the names of the technologies can vary among companies.
Driver assist package. A lot of new cars come with a driver assist package; it’s considered the most basic of vehicle safety improvements. The main feature is the lane departure technology that uses a camera and sensors to help keep the driver perfectly situated between lanes. Interestingly, it relies on the driver keeping his/her hands on the wheel, if only lightly. If it senses the hands are gone for more than 15 seconds, it shuts down. Lane departure warning sensors also rely on clear, well-painted lines in the road; if they’re not clear, the system won’t work as well.
Some cars offer short, medium and long-range radars and cameras to detect pedestrians and slow/stopped cars in addition to the road marks. In the more expensive versions, if an oncoming car veers partly into the driver’s lane, the sensors direct the car’s computer to automatically move the car to the far edge of the lane.
Adaptive cruise control is also called active cruise control, autonomous cruise control, intelligent cruise control and radar cruise control. Just like regular cruise control, the driver sets the speed—and then a radar sensor watches for traffic ahead, locks onto the car in front, and instructs the driver to stay 2, 3 or 4 seconds behind the car ahead of it, at a speed from 60 mph to a standstill. When adaptive cruise control is engaged, it has preset minimum speeds; when it’s not engaged it will still give warning of a potential accident ahead. A partial adaptive cruise control is available with fewer features for less money. The system works well day and night, but its abilities are limited by inclement weather.
Blind spot detection or blind spot monitoring involves cameras and a detection system. The name says it all—it protects the vehicle from collisions by “watching” the blind spot area just behind the side rearview mirrors. On various cars, when the sensor catches something, an alarm on the dashboard will sound, the steering wheel will vibrate or the driver’s seat will vibrate. In the most advanced systems, the car will try to steer itself back into the safety zone.
BMW now offers a night vision option that identifies pedestrians in or near the road, draws boxes around them in the LCD display, aims a headlight at the figure and flashes the lamp three times.
Subaru offers an EyeSight stereo camera system; as an article in extremetech.com says, “If there’s something the camera can measure, Subaru implements it.” If the car in front moves forward and the driver is daydreaming, the Forester beeps politely. Sudden acceleration is modulated and moderated to avoid hitting the car in front. If the driver swerves within a lane, EyeSight prompts the driver to pay attention.
Discovery Vision, a new technology introduced by Land Rover, scans the rural terrain in front of the car and projects the image onto the windshield for the driver.
For drivers who feel more comfortable manually handling some of the safety, the Honda Accord’s Lane Watch camera tracks the passenger’s side view mirror only and displays it on the dashboard LCD. The driver must judge the driver’s side rearview mirror blind spot him/herself.
Car technology is impressive these days—and many times, collision technicians are the some of the first to learn about and test these new technologies. For more collision repair education, download our free eBook, Panels, Paints & Graphics: The Future of Collision Repair.