The level of standard safety features is always shifting. What is seen as innovative and fresh today will soon be the norm for tomorrow’s motorists. But what should you be looking out for? What safety features are available and how do they work? Hold tight for a whistle-stop ride. Mercedes-Benz does a good job of summarising the key stages in providing safety in its vehicles. The car maker looks at how its technologies support drivers in four phases: ■ safe driving ■ critical situations ■ safety during an accident ■ safety after a crash.
Adaptive cruise control and “lane keep assist” tech have become increasingly prevalent in new cars coming off the line. They help drivers by managing their speed of travel and providing corrective steering assistance to stay centred in a lane. More comprehensive packages also provide additional blindspot, attention and brake-assist functions, along with electronic stability programs and cross-traffic monitoring that warns you of vehicles approaching from either side. We’re seeing more vehicles with cameras – many with a 360-degree, reverse and aerial view of the vehicle – that display your surroundings on the multimedia display to minimise the risk of collision when pulling out of tight spots.
In critical situations, safety features such as anti-lock braking systems come in to play. Some car makers take it even further, equipping their vehicles with more pre-collision tech that can detect impending frontal crashes, automatically retract the front seatbelts and prepare the brake-assist for increased brake force.
During an accident
In a crash, a car is designed to protect its occupants and other road users. Airbags – front, side, curtain, and knee – are the most common safety feature found on our cars, helping to protect people inside. However, more cars are being fitted with crash-responsive pedals and even active bonnets which lift to minimise injury to pedestrians.
After a crash
After a crash, a number of actions can start, depending upon the type and severity of the impact registered by the system. Many European manufacturers, for example, have an automatic engine and fuel system shut-off and hazard and emergency interior lights that switch on automatically to lower the risk of further accidents and help locate the car. Some can also automatically lower the powered windows if an airbag is deployed to allow ventilation and, after a serious accident, the doors will automatically unlock to allow occupants or rescue workers to exit or enter the vehicle.
Technology is continuing to advance and it’s helping to create vehicles packed with complex electronics that do their best to keep us and our families safe. We are given peace of mind knowing such safety systems exist and that a lot are standard features now.