From Centre Brake Lights to Automatic Emergency Braking – How Technology Is Savings Lives in Today’s New Vehicles!

In 1986, I remember my father being required to install a rear centre high mount stop light (CHMSL). The auto industry has come a long way since then. In the decade that followed, two of the greatest safety features that appeared were anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC).

In more recent years, features such as Bluetooth and back up cameras were introduced and have improved the safety features on our vehicles. In the very near future, it will be mandated that all vehicles have back up cameras. While these advancements have no doubt increased overall vehicle safety, there are other incredible advancements in high tech safety technology that are truly remarkable and are making a definite immediate impact on – well…. impacts!

I remember helping a client buy a very expensive Mercedes many years ago and was amazed at the number of safety features available on this $120,000 car. Now, some cars that are $20,000 have similar technology designed to significantly reduce the chances of collisions by utilizing onboard cameras and radar technology. Many manufacturers have given specific names to their safety technology packages – Honda Sensing, Subaru Eyesight and Toyota Safety Sense are just a few examples.

Here is a glimpse into some of this incredible technology that can be found on many of today’s new cars:

  • Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) – alerts you to a vehicle that may be in your blind spot when changing lanes. Typically a light on your side mirror will notify you of a vehicle beside you to avoid causing an accident.
  • Forward Collision Warning (FCW) – may prime brakes or seat belts (to improve their reaction time by pre-engaging them) as any amount of time saved can reduce the chance of injuries. There is also often an audible warning before the vehicle switches to automatic emergency braking.
  • Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) – detects potential problems and may assist or actually brake to avoid a collision without you ever touching your brake pedal.
  • Pedestrian Avoidance – similar to AEB, the vehicle will apply the brakes if necessary to assist in avoiding a collision with a pedestrian.
  • Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) – will alert a driver if they start to drift outside of their lane and if not corrected in time, will apply small adjustments to the steering to bring the vehicle back to the centre of the lane.
  • Automatic High Beams – will automatically turn on or off your high beams in low lighting depending on how far away oncoming headlights are or how far away the brake lights are in front of you, in order to maximize visibility at all times.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control – will allow you to set not only a desired speed but also a minimum distance between you and a car in front of you. Your car will now automatically brake/decelerate and accelerate (back to the cruising speed you set) to maintain this set distance if the vehicle in front of you brakes, accelerates, or moves out of your lane.
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert – will detect possible issues while reversing (great in parking lots) and provide an audible alert for the driver, and in some cases also apply the brakes to prevent a collision.
  • Coffee Cup Alert – will detect irregular steering movements and alert you through a warning light (that looks like a coffee cup) which also suggests a break may be required.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) studied 5000 accidents and looked at vehicles with and without blind spot monitoring. The study showed a 21% reduction in injuries with vehicles that were equipped with BSM. Volvo did their own study in Sweden and determined blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist cut crash rates by 50%.

Some of the challenges that may limit the effectiveness of many of these systems are inclement weather, curvy roads, and poor lane markings. Driver knowledge of these systems and the ability of drivers to turn off many of these features will also create challenges for these systems to maximize their true potential.

While not all new vehicles are currently equipped with this safety technology it would not surprise me if, in the near future, it becomes as common as power windows… except it will be saving lives and not just saving us time at the drive-through!