We’ve all heard it said that driverless cars are the future of the auto industry. But while fully autonomous vehicles aren’t widely available just yet, automakers continue to introduce new technologies to help make your car smarter — and safer.
Having the right auto insurance is one way to feel confident about the road ahead. Knowing what technology to consider on your next car is another. The names and specifics vary among automakers, so it pays to do some independent research with organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Looking for a quick roundup? If you’re in the market for a new car, truck or SUV, here are 12 high-tech safety upgrades to consider.
New Car Technology Safety Features
1. Adaptive Cruise Control
- What is it? Traditional cruise control systems are great for maintaining a steady speed on the highway. But they can be a pain to use in traffic when every vehicle isn’t traveling at the same pace. Adaptive cruise control (ACC) solves this problem by automatically accelerating or braking to maintain a set distance between your car and the vehicle in front of it.
- How does it work? Thanks to an array of built-in sensors, ACC allows you to set the cruise without adjusting it when the car ahead slows down. Many systems will even bring your car to a complete stop. That means less work for you in stop-and-go traffic — and some extra help maintaining a safe distance behind other vehicles.
2. Lane Departure Warning
- What is it? We’ve all experienced the fear of suddenly realizing you drifted outside your driving lane. Lane departure warning (LDW) systems are designed to alert you right away, so you can make a correction before an accident occurs.
- How does it work? By monitoring the painted lines on the roadway, these systems alert the driver of a lane departure by using a warning chime, a visual alert on the dash, a steering wheel vibration or a combination of all three.
3. Lane Keeping Assist
- What is it? This technology takes the lane departure warning to the next level, by automatically steering your vehicle to keep it within the lane. A variety of automakers offer some type of lane keeping assist (LKA) system.
- How does it work? Whether it’s called active steer, autosteer, lane keep or lane centering assist, they all do the same thing: make minor steering corrections to keep you safely between the lines.
4. Forward Collision Warning
- What is it? Rear-end collisions are one of the most common auto accidents, in part because of how quickly they can occur. Take your eyes off the road for just a few seconds, and when you look back up it could be too late to brake for a vehicle stopped in front of you.
- How does it work? Forward collision warning (FCW) systems are designed to alert drivers of hazards ahead that could cause an accident.
5. Automatic Emergency Braking
- What is it? There are certain times when a sudden stop is necessary to avoid an impending collision. Whether you’re braking for a pedestrian, a disabled vehicle or a deer in the roadway, automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to help safely bring your vehicle to a stop.
- How does it work? This system uses sensors and cameras to detect a potential forward collision, then automatically applies the brakes. By eliminating the human reaction time involved in braking, an AEB system can help reduce the likelihood of a crash — or at least lessen the severity of the impact. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates AEB systems will prevent 28,000 crashes by 2025 — which is why 20 of the world’s largest automakers have agreed to make the system mandatory by 2022.
- One thing to consider: Recalls have been reported on some makes and models because their AEB systems have suddenly and unexpectedly engaged the brakes. Learn how to check for recalls and know what to do if your car is affected.
6. 360-Degree Camera
- What is it? There’s a reason why backup cameras are now mandatory equipment for all vehicles sold in the U.S. They vastly improve visibility by removing a driver’s blind spots. Now, automakers are beginning to take camera technology a step further, with 360-degree camera systems.
- How does it work? By combining the view from multiple cameras into a single screen, these systems can make parallel parking or navigating a crowded parking lot far less stressful. Different auto marketers have developed their own names for this technology (such as surround view, surround vision, bird’s eye view or multi-angle view), but they all do basically the same thing.
7. Blind Spot Monitoring
- What is it? If you’ve ever attempted to change lanes on the highway before realizing there was a car hidden in your blind spot, you’ll instantly understand the appeal of this technology. Blind spot monitoring or blind spot warning systems alert a driver when there’s a vehicle to the rear of them in an adjacent lane.
- How does it work? Depending on the car, these systems will sound a chime, flash a warning sign in the vehicle’s mirror or vibrate the steering wheel if it detects a vehicle in your blind spot.
8. Pedestrian Detection
- What is it? This technology offers a slightly different take on forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking by specifically monitoring for pedestrians and cyclists.
- How does it work? At lower speeds, the system uses a combination of radar sensors and cameras to identify people who are walking and biking. By actively monitoring their distance and direction, pedestrian detection (PD) systems will alert the driver if a pedestrian is headed toward the vehicle and automatically engage the brakes to prevent a collision.
9. Adaptive Headlights
- What is it? Limited visibility can make driving at night difficult, especially on curvy roads. Adaptive headlights aim to improve nighttime vision by adjusting the headlight direction to the road ahead.
- How does it work? While standard headlights always point in one direction, cars with adaptive headlights use sensors to measure a driver’s steering inputs. Then, they turn the angle of the headlights to provide a better view of where you’re going. So when you’re taking a turn, you’ll be more likely to see where you’re headed, instead of illuminating the side of the road.
10. Cabin Camera
- What is it? While 360-degree cameras provide a full view of your car’s surroundings, many automakers are starting to add cameras inside the vehicle to help with safety or reduce distracted driving.
- How does it work? Technology such as Honda’s CabinWatch® uses an in-car camera to help minivan drivers keep a closer eye on kids in the backseat — a feature that may be especially appealing to families with young children. And other automakers are experimenting with facial recognition software to unlock a vehicle and recognize when a driver becomes tired or distracted.
11. Parking Assist
- What is it? Every driver can relate to the pressures of parallel parking — like trying to fit in a space without hitting the curb or bumping a nearby car. If you’re not a fan of street parking, you may want to check out parking assist technology.
- How does it work? Like other features, every automaker has its own name for this new tech: parking assistant, park assist and active park assist, to name a few. But they all accomplish the same task. Parking your car at the push of a button. With this technology, you can let go of the wheel and watch your vehicle pull itself in or out of a tight parking spot.
12. Heads-up Display
- What is it? Keeping your eyes on the road is one of the keys to safe driving. A heads-up display (HUD) makes that job easier by projecting critical information onto your vehicle’s windshield.
- How does it work? As you drive, you’ll see your vehicle’s speed and GPS navigation displayed on the dash — eliminating the need to look down.
One final thought: These car technologies only help if you actually use them. A new national survey from Erie Insurance found that drivers are intentionally turning off or disabling features that can help them avoid crashes. See the full results of our 2020 survey here.
Can safety technologies lower the cost of my auto insurance?
With all these high-tech upgrades designed to improve your car’s safety, you might wonder how that affects your rates. (See also: What Determines the Price of My Auto Insurance?)
Newer vehicles with safety features like back-up cameras and automatic braking do a better job of preventing accidents. However, it typically costs more to repair and replace a car with the latest technology.
So while the car you drive can influence your rates, your driving habits affect it even more.
A New App from ERIE to Reward Safe Driving
Good news for good drivers: With Erie Insurance, you can get rewarded for safe behaviors behind the wheel*. Our rewards program, YourTurn™ uses a smartphone app to track driving behaviors including acceleration, braking, cornering, phone distraction and speeding.
Depending on how safely you drive, you can earn rewards every two weeks that can be redeemed for gift cards or donated to charity. It’s one more way ERIE rewards you for playing it safe.
Contact your local ERIE agent to see if the YourTurn™ program is available in your state. Then, you can start earning rewards and promoting safe driving for your entire family.
*YourTurn™ Program is not available in all states, including DC, KY, NC, NY, and PA. Ages 16-23 can earn rewards of up to $10 every two weeks, ages 24+ can earn rewards of up to $5 every two weeks, based on driving 50 tracked miles and the participating driver’s score during the scoring period. Must drive a minimum of 50 tracked miles during each two-week reward period. Standard text messaging rates apply. Must have a compatible smartphone device with a data plan subscription and GPS capabilities used exclusively by the participating driver.