You might think automakers these days would be focusing their technological imaginations on improving fuel efficiency, but a review of advances in auto gadgetry for 2009 shows crash prevention is tops on the list.
“We’re seeing more and more features that are intended to help drivers avoid collisions,” says David Zuby, senior vice president of vehicle research for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS.
As the automakers roll out new technology, you’ll likely see it first in “luxury and/or foreign brands,” says Zuby. “Like a lot of safety technology, that initial technology is expensive. It’s easy to put them in luxury brands.”
Here are some of the technological innovations you are (or will be) seeing on new vehicles.
Emergency brake assist: Adds extra stopping power when you brake suddenly. “There are sensors on the brake pedal to try and figure out if this is an emergency or just normal,” says Zuby.
According to the IIHS, some makers using versions of this technology include Acura, Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes, Rolls Royce and Volvo.
Forward collision warning: Sensors in the front of the car (often radar or lasers), detect “objects the driver may crash into,” says Zuby. The car then warns the driver. The exact nature of the signal will vary with the manufacturer. Volvo flashes something on the windshield that resembles a line of tail lights, says Zuby. Other makers may use sounds or special lights in the instrument cluster. If the system is connected to a brake-assist feature, the vehicle may even apply the brakes slightly.
According to the institute, some makers using versions of this technology include Acura, Mercedes and Volvo.