When you’re shopping for a new vehicle, there are a lot of things to consider: Should I go for two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive? What about a back-up camera? And how do I know if I need winter tires?
As technology advances, so do the safety mechanisms in new vehicles, meaning there are even more choices to make when picking out a new set of wheels — but this should be exciting, not overwhelming. Ponder the perks of just a few of the advanced driver assistance systems that you’ll find in many vehicles on the market today and learn how they can help keep you safe on the road.
Blind spot monitoring
Trying to change lanes on a jam-packed highway can be nerve-wracking. Luckily, blind spot detection systems — sensors or cameras usually installed in your side-view mirrors or on the back of your car — can detect when another vehicle is coming up behind you and entering a spot you can’t see with your mirrors. If you try to switch lanes while someone is in your blind spot, some systems will sound an alert, give your steering wheel a little jiggle, or even help steer you back into your lane; others will simply display a light on one of your mirrors that might begin to flash when you turn on your signal. Blind spot detection systems don’t replace your good old mirror and shoulder checks, but they’re an extra safety feature that can help shed a little light on your blind spots.
Adaptive cruise control
Have you ever set your cruise control only to find yourself braking a moment later when someone cuts you off — and then resetting your cruise control when traffic clears? This is where adaptive cruise control comes in. Also known as traffic-aware cruise control, it’s designed to keep your car a safe distance behind the vehicles in front of you. Once you’ve selected your cruising speed and minimum following distance, forward-facing radar installed behind your vehicle’s grille detects the speed and distance of the vehicle ahead of you. If traffic slows down, your vehicle will begin to brake automatically — and if traffic clears or speeds up, your vehicle will accelerate until it reaches your cruising speed. While some systems will allow your vehicle to automatically slow to a stop (meaning they’ll work in stop-and-go traffic), others will only begin to slow down and then sound an alert warning you to hit the brakes yourself.
Lane departure warnings
Lane departure warning systems are exactly what they sound like: systems designed to warn you when you’re leaving your lane without signalling first. A camera (often embedded inside your windshield, near your rear-view mirror) reads the lines on the road and triggers an alert if you begin to cross over a line without first turning on your signal. Some systems will make a beeping sound or display a light on your dash when you begin to cross over a line, but others will lightly jiggle your steering wheel or even your driver’s seat — perhaps to wake you up if you’ve started to doze off.
What if something goes wrong?
When your vehicle comes with driver-assist technology, following your owner’s manual for general maintenance and service instructions is especially important. Plus, if part of your car is damaged in an accident and needs to be repaired, taking it to a qualified professional is a must (even if you believe your driver-assist systems were unharmed). Where sensors and cameras are concerned, proper installation and recalibration is essential — or you could find yourself in a sticky situation if one of them fails.
Technology has come a long way, and it’ll only continue driving forward as time goes on (pun intended). And although new driver-assist mechanisms can help prevent collisions and make getting around a little easier, they don’t replace safe driving habits — and blaming a fender-bender on one of your vehicle’s safety features might not go over too well with your mechanic or your insurance company. At the end of the day, you're responsible for your own actions, so don't rely too heavily on these technologies to do the driving for you.
Thinking of upgrading to a new vehicle with drive-assist features? If you need some help picking a winner once you’ve narrowed it down to a few favourites, ask your licensed broker to help you compare the cost of car insurance for your top picks. You’ll be driving off the lot with your new ride in no time.