Sat, 30 Sep 2023

What has changed in the last few years to make cars safer?

We're living a life of major technological marvels that are launched on the daily, it seems, and in the USA, this is evident in the way our vehicles have changed. Perhaps adapted is a better word, though, with upgrades made with each passing year to make cars with superior performance, arresting good looks, and the ultimate in safety technology. But what is so different in 2022?

Twenty Years Ago…

In the early 2000s, safety requirements were being closely scrutinized. Just a few short years earlier in late 1998, airbags had been made compulsory for the driver and front passenger. The earliest iterations of the 5th-gen Mustang from Ford, for example, only had two airbags back in 2005, gradually getting side airbags a few years later.

Thankfully, seatbelts had been mandated since 1973, which is the first line in passenger safety. That being said, cars from this era were equipped with just the basics, which included both the airbags and the seatbelts for passengers, and not much more. It would be a few more years until driver assistance technology became available - let alone included as standard.

Fifteen Years Ago…

In 2008, tire pressure monitoring was introduced as an added safety measure. The system keeps track of the air pressure in tires and reports back in real-time to the driver so that they can pre-empt any issues, including burst tires or a blow-out at high speeds. Tire pressure monitoring became a requirement on any vehicle produced after 2007, and can even be fitted after-market if your car doesn't come standard with it. Vehicles like the 2nd-gen Toyota Tacoma came standard with a tire pressure monitoring system across all trims.

Ten Years Ago…

In 2012, safety standards were revised to incorporate Electronic Stability Control and anti-lock braking systems as a requirement in the United States. The NHTSA requires all new passenger vehicles sold in the US to be equipped with ESC and ABS as of ten years ago.

Five Years Ago…

It may seem odd that rearview cameras only became a mandated safety item in 2018, but perhaps due to the size of some vehicles increasing exponentially, or the design of coupes and crossovers making it difficult to see out the back, rearview cameras became a necessity. In fact, the NHTSA made the ruling in 2014 already but stated that all vehicles to be built from May 2018 were required to include the monitoring system. These days, base models come fitted with rearview cameras displaying a view onto the rearview mirror or display screen, while more premium vehicles often having surround view monitors that cover all angles in real-time and show a 360-degree view of your car for added safety.

Current Safety Features

In 2022, the engine and drivetrain configurations on your car are not the only important features to consider, and how much you spend on a vehicle these days also has an implication of the type of specifications you can expect. Although some safety features are standardized, the basic rule of thumb is that the more you spend, the more safety equipment you get included. Here are some of the available active safety features and driver assists currently up for grabs designed to make driving safer than ever:

  • Blind-spot monitoring: Sensors, radar, or cameras on the side of your car are aimed specifically at the areas a driver would typically struggle to see, usually around the B and C pillar areas. The system will detect an objection in this area and notify the driver with either a warning light, audible chime, or real-time display on a monitor. Some manufacturers pair this with blind-spot intervention where your vehicle will prevent you from steering into an area where an object has been detected.
  • Cruise control: The current speed of your car is locked down to keep it at a constant while the driver focuses only on keeping the steering wheel pointed in the right direction. More updated systems include adaptive speed functions with automatic braking and acceleration for increasing or decreasing speed relative to cars ahead of you.
  • Lane keep, lane departure or lane change assist: The main goal of this system is to prevent you from leaving your lane or trying to change lanes when it isn't safe. Haptic feedback on the steering wheel can warn you if you're drifting, or attempt to steer you back.
  • Driver attention alert: A clever system that learns your driving patterns, measures the amount of input on the steering wheel, or how many times you drift from your lane and warns you to pay attention.

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