Collision avoidance systems are quickly making their way into newer vehicle models, and for good reason. According to many researchers, including those at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), these systems really do save lives by reducing the number of accidents and injury-related crashes we see each year.
When the IIHS — a nonprofit best known for conducting vehicle tests and publishing an annual “Top Safety Picks” list — analyzed over 5,000 accidents involving lane departures and blind spots, it found the following:
- The rate of single vehicle sideswipe and head-on crashes was 11% lower in vehicles with lane departure and blind spot warning features.
- These features cut the rate of injury crashes of the same type by 21%.
- If all vehicles had been equipped with these warning features, more than 55,000 injuries would have been prevented that year.
How Collision Avoidance Systems Work
Before we dive into the most popular types of collision avoidance systems currently on the market, a brief explanation of how these systems work: essentially, these features allow your car to “sense” via cameras, radars, and lasers other vehicles, pedestrians, and obstacles in your way. Anticipating a collision, your car gives any number of cues — a chirp, a blinking mirror or dashboard icon, a vibrating steering wheel — to warn you to take action. More advanced systems can actually take corrective action for you, applying the brakes or correcting your steering.
Popular Types of Collision Avoidance Systems
Collision avoidance systems were initially limited to high-end luxury vehicles. Thankfully, over the past few years, they’ve spread to lower-priced, mainstream models, making them more available to the average consumer. A few of the most popular features are the following:
- Forward collision warning (pre-crash warning system): This feature alerts the driver — typically via a chirp — if they are closing in too quickly on the vehicle in front of them. If the driver ignores the warning, some cars with more advanced features will apply partial or full autobrake.
This feature is perhaps one of the most effective for collision avoidance. In fact, the IIHS reported a 7% crash reduction for vehicles with a basic forward-collision warning system, and a 15% reduction for those with automatic braking. And, according to David Zuby, Chief Research Officer of the IIHS, “Even in the cases where these systems failed to prevent a crash, if there’s automatic braking going on, or if the driver does brake in response to a warning, that crash is going to be less severe than it would have been otherwise.”
A couple other popular collision avoidance systems include:
- Blind-spot monitoring and assist: This feature lights up an icon on your mirror or dashboard when it detects a vehicle in your blindspot. If you start to turn into the other vehicle, the system might give another warning, like a chirp. More advanced systems might even lightly apply the brakes on one side of your vehicle in order to keep you in your lane.
- Lane departure warning and assist: This feature uses sensors to monitor your car’s distance from each lane line. If you stray over either line, your car will alert you. More advanced systems will take corrective action (applying the brakes or nudging the steering wheel) to keep you in your lane.
- Rear cameras and parking assist: Rear cameras are a popular feature that can prevent back-over accidents by signaling your car to emit a chirp as you close in on an obstacle. These cameras are particularly helpful when backing into tight parking spots.
Emerging Collision Avoidance Features
While features like forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and rear cameras have become a mainstay in newer vehicle models, some collision avoidance features are more recently hitting the market. These, too, have great potential when it comes to preventing collisions and keeping drivers and pedestrians safe.
- Adaptive headlights: Adaptive headlights are a feature in some newer, more high-end models. As you turn the steering wheel, adaptive headlights swivel, illuminating the road as your car turns. While some find the swiveling headlights distracting, they can be particularly helpful when maneuvering narrow, winding roads.
- Drowsiness detection: This system uses various methods to determine if a driver is nodding off. For example, in some systems, a computer compares current and previous steering behavior to look for concerning discrepancies. Other systems monitor a car’s position within traffic lines, monitoring for erratic movement. Still other systems go so far as to track a driver’s eye movement. In the event that the car detects a drowsy driver, it will emit a warning to get the driver back on track.
- Automatic park assist: This system identifies a parking space (parallel or perpendicular) that your car can fit into, and then helps steer your car into the space.
As you can see, car manufacturers have taken great leaps when it comes to helping drivers avoid collisions. Over the upcoming years, we’re excited to see even more technological advances when it comes to enhancing collision avoidance systems.