Automakers double down on safety
Safety is huge. When it’s time to buy or lease a vehicle, the consumer’s perception of how well a vehicle protects its occupants can easily make or break the deal.
Better yet, why not avoid accidents completely? Dynamic cruise control with full auto stop and go, warnings when the car strays outside its lane, alerts if you’re about to back up into another car (or worse, a person) attempt to do just that and for many years have been features available in high-end cars.
But safety is not a luxury. Technology hasn’t just trickled down into more affordable cars, it’s cascaded. There’s a good chance you’ll encounter many of these cutting-edge safety features — also called “driver assistance” — either baked in to many 2019 or 2020 vehicles or part of a premium trim or option bundle.
Here are a few examples of how automakers are raising the safety bar.
Nissan created its Rear Door Alert to prevent the heat-related injuries or deaths that happen each year when a caregiver forgets there’s a child in the back seat. Standard on eight 2019 Nissans, including the Rogue, Altima, Murano and Maxima, RDA monitors whether a rear door that’s been opened at the start of a trip hasn’t been re-opened after the vehicle’s been parked and turned off. If that scenario occurs, the system displays an instrument panel message to remind drivers to check the back seat and also sounds subtle, but distinct chirps of the vehicle’s horn.
Nissan will have RDA, which owners can deactivate, standard in all its four-door vehicles by 2022.
Audi’s flagship, the new 2019 A8, has pre sense 360, which employs as many as 24 sensing devices, including laser, radar, sonar and cameras, to cover the luxury sedan’s perimeter. If the A8 has the optional driver assistance and adaptive chassis packages and the car’s sensors indicate an impending side strike, Audi said pre sense and the A8’s predictive active suspension can raise the chassis by 3.1 inches — within a half second — to ensure the impact happens at the strongest parts of the A8.
Audi said its luxe cruiser is also the first production car to employ a laser scanner with a wide horizontal range that delivers more contoured images that are detailed, and measures distance and orientation.
When the sun goes down, drivers’ long-range vision is drastically reduced. Night vision systems, offered on certain Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Cadillac and Bentley models, relies on a grille-mounted infrared camera system and specialized algorithms that allows drivers to detect people and animals in the road ahead much sooner and help prevent, or at least lessen, injuries and damage.
Cadillac’s revamped 2019 CT6 Platinum comes with a full arsenal of driver assistance technology. The top-of-the-line CT6 Platinum comes standard with forward and reverse automatic braking, advanced adaptive cruise control, front pedestrian braking, safety-alert seat, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with departure warning, lane change monitoring and side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic warning and even night vision.
The CT6 Platinum is also equipped with Super Cruise, which enables hands-free semi-autonomous driving on 130,000 miles of divided freeways in the U.S. and Canada. The system uses precise GPS, a network of camera and radar sensors and GM’s OnStar telematics system. CT6s with Super Cruise use a camera to make sure drivers keep their eyes on the road.
Look for Super Cruise to show up in other Cadillacs and General Motors vehicles as the decade draws to a close. (You can also get the technology in the CT6 Premium Luxury by adding the Super Cruise package, a full bag of features that costs an additional six grand.)
When Consumer Reports looked at automated driving technology last year, the editors concluded that the systems help reduce driver stress and fatigue and gave Cadillac’s Super Cruise top marks for the system’s balance of safety and technology.
The CT6 sports the latest technology and has generated a buzz amid critics for its responsive handling. The fully loaded Platinum version also has a starting price to match: $87,790.
But you don’t have to fork over that substantial chunk of change to enjoy much of the same safety tech, thanks to commitments by many automakers to have automatic emergency braking standard on all vehicles by the fall of 2022.
Toyota’s 2019 Corolla, for example, comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense-P, a bundle found on many new Toyota models. The suite includes dynamic radar cruise control that adjusts speed to keep a set distance and can automatically slow the vehicle, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist that makes small corrections in steering input, and automatic high-beams. The MSRP? $18,700.