Top 5 Most Useful Driver-Assist Technologies in Everyday Driving

  • Based in Los Angeles, Warren Clarke loves providing readers with the information they need to make smart automotive choices. He's provided content for outlets such as Carfax, Edmunds.com, Credit Karma and the New York Daily News.

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Accidents happen every day on the highways and byways of our nation, and they can be deadly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37,461 people perished in motor vehicle crashes in 2016. The good news is that these days, accidents are more preventable than ever.

The NHTSA’s research indicates that most vehicle crashes are linked to human error. Using innovations like sensors, cameras, lidar, and radar technology, today’s driver-assist features have the capability to diminish the likelihood of driver miscalculation, serving as an extra pair of eyes for those who are piloting a vehicle.

Fortunately, this technology is rapidly advancing. It seems as if every day there’s an automaker introducing a new driver-assist feature. But while the most recent innovations have their place, there are a few standbys that have proven their usefulness time and again to millions of grateful drivers.

Below, we take a look at the best of these amenities. Here are our picks for the 5 most useful driver-assist technologies in everyday driving, listed in alphabetical order.

Blind-Spot Warning System

Blind Spot Warning System
A blind-spot warning system can help a driver make safer lane changes by detecting vehicles that might be in the driver’s blind spots. (Nissan)

If they’re being honest, most drivers will admit they’ve had at least one close call while making a lane change. It can sometimes be difficult to get a clear view of adjacent or approaching traffic when switching lanes, and this can make certain driving situations stressful and dangerous. A blind-spot warning system can help, providing feedback a driver can use to make safer lane changes.

Blind-spot warning systems use cameras or radar technology to see if there’s traffic in the lane adjacent to the vehicle. If traffic is detected, this technology issues an auditory and/or visual warning to the driver. More sophisticated systems can even prevent a driver from making an unsafe lane change, and warn drivers of fast-approaching traffic both on the highway and when parked on the side of the road.

A blind-spot warning system functions much like a friend looking over a driver’s shoulder, offering guidance that can keep tragedy at bay.

Forward Collision Warning System with Automatic Emergency Braking

Automatic Forward Emergency Braking
Forward collision warning systems can warn a driver of a possible crash and then activate an automatic emergency braking system to either prevent a collision or slow the vehicle before impact. (Nissan)

In certain driving situations, we may be slow to recognize danger. For example, if the car in front of us abruptly decreases its speed, we may not become aware of this in time to avert a collision.

A forward collision warning system can be a lifesaver in a scenario such as this. This technology uses sensors to determine if a collision is imminent. These sensors may be capable of identifying other vehicles, wildlife, pedestrians, or cyclists, depending on the specific nature of the technology. If the system determines an impending crash, it issues a warning to the driver.

Many forward collision warning systems also come with automatic emergency braking. This technology automatically deploys the car’s brakes if the driver fails to respond to a warning in order to prevent a collision or to reduce speed to lessen the impact of a collision.

Parking-Assist Sensors

2019 Lexus ES with Parking Sensors
Parking-assist sensors can help drivers keep a car’s bumpers free of dents and dings. See that little circle on the front bumper of this Lexus ES? That’s the sensor that tells the driver the car is getting close to an object. (Lexus)

If they want to avoid dings and dents, drivers need their wits about them when entering or exiting parking spaces. A miscalculation could lead the vehicle to make contact with another car or a stationary object such as a wall or building column. This could cause costly damage to the vehicle or the object.

Parking-assist sensors can help. This technology uses sensors to determine if the vehicle is in danger of hitting an object during a parking maneuver. If the vehicle is on a path that will result in a collision, this technology issues visual and/or auditory warnings to alert the driver. Sensors are available that monitor the front and/or rear of the vehicle.

Reversing Camera

Reversing Camera Display
One of the first driver-assist systems to enjoy widespread use, reversing cameras are now required by law on every vehicle built starting in May 2018. (Christian Wardlaw)

The advent of the reversing camera has made one of the most perilous driving maneuvers a lot safer. Backing a vehicle can cause drivers to collide with obstacles that are beyond their range of vision. For example, a pet or a small child standing close to the vehicle’s rear bumper would likely be invisible to the driver, and this could cause a crash while the vehicle is reversing.

By providing an image of the area behind the vehicle, a reversing camera can prevent these mishaps from occurring. When the vehicle shifts into reverse, the camera transmits a rear-facing view of the terrain to a dash-mounted screen or a display in the rearview mirror.

Reversing cameras are so useful and effective they’ve become mandatory by law. Federal regulations require all vehicles sold in the U.S. to be equipped with this feature. This law went into effect on May 1, 2018, so this amenity may be absent on used cars made prior to this date.

Surround-View Camera

Surround View Camera System Audi A8
A 360-degree surround-view camera gives a driver clear sight lines during parking maneuvers. This one is installed in the latest Audi A8 and is among the most sophisticated of its kind. (Audi)

A spotter can be helpful when making tricky parking maneuvers, and that’s because this person can provide the driver with guidance based on having a clear view outside the vehicle. A 360-degree surround-view camera gives the driver a spotter’s perspective. It provides the person behind the wheel with the visual information needed to squeeze a car into tight spaces without causing scratches and dings.

This system uses cameras mounted all around the vehicle to give the driver a 360-degree view of the immediate surroundings. Some systems also offer a bird’s-eye perspective of the vehicle that’s clear enough to help the driver park within the lines when easing into a space, while a handful can transmit a live video feed of the vehicle and its surroundings to an app on your smartphone.

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About the Author

  • Based in Los Angeles, Warren Clarke loves providing readers with the information they need to make smart automotive choices. He's provided content for outlets such as Carfax, Edmunds.com, Credit Karma and the New York Daily News.

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