Your guide to… the latest car technology

If you’re not upgrading your car every year, it might come as a surprise when you do go to look at the latest models to discover all the new features they have. Some may be gimmicks, some may be handy, and others might save your life. Here’s our round-up of the most helpful that you might want to put on your wish list.

Keyless entry and starting

On a dark, rainy night laden down with shopping, the last thing you want is to have to stop and rummage for your car key before getting in. We’ve probably all got car keys with a button-press fob, but with the very latest ones, you don’t even need to press a button to clunk the locks up. As long as the ‘key’ is somewhere about your person, such as in a bag or pocket, as soon as you get close to the car, it will automatically unlock. Plus, you can just get into the car and just press the start button to get the engine running.

ADAS – Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

You’ll see this acronym cropping up a lot if you’re looking at new cars! The development of these systems and in-car technology is coming thick and fast, and they’re getting more sophisticated all the time. ADAS are effectively the next generation of car safety features. In the past, vehicle safety was improved by physical additions such as the mandatory use of seat belts and the introduction of airbags. While mechanically and structurally cars had got safer over the last 20 years or so, it’s taken a little longer for technology to catch up.

While it might be a while before we are whizzing around in fully autonomous cars, we are certainly reaching a half-way stage. The thing about the technology we’re now being offered is that it’s designed to assist the driver, not replace them altogether. And, they are certainly not there to be in complete control of your car – they’re the first officer, not the pilot!

Safety is easy as ABC…

Admittedly, there are a lot of abbreviations to recognise in this new world of safety features!

Let’s start with AEB –autonomous (or automatic) emergency braking, which can respond to hazards as quick as, if not quicker, than we can. Sensors on the front of the car scan and assess what’s happening on the road ahead. If something is detected, in a split second, there will be a series of visual, audio or vibrating (haptic) signals to alert the driver and the brakes will kick in. And if the collision is unavoidable, the sensor will reduce the speed and prime all the vehicle’s safety features, such as the airbags and seatbelts, ready for impact.

It’s important to remember that humans, and the errors and decisions we make, are the cause of the vast majority of accidents. With our comfortable, streamlined cars, it is remarkably easy to slip over the speed limit. With ISA, Intelligent Speed Assistance, the car will remind you if you are not within the limit for the road you’re on or even reduce your speed itself. The ISA system can take its information from online maps, GPS or signals from the roadside signs, plus some let you set your own voluntary limit. Another great speed device to look out for is adaptive cruise control (ACC) which keeps a safe distance between you and the traffic in front. And while it helps with long motorway drives, it can also take care of all the stops and starts in busy traffic and jams by monitoring the car in front.

One last abbreviation to look out for is LKA – Lane Keep Assistance. By tracking the road with cameras or infrared sensors, this feature can detect when the car drifts outside of its lane. This can happen when the driver is tired or actually falls asleep, but it’s also easy to do when distracted by things like radio controls and coffee cups. This feature would prevent head-on crashes on single carriageways and side impacts on motorways, as well as careering into the side of the road.

Car safety ratings at the touch of a button

With all the choice of new models and features, it’s easy to get information overload when looking for a new car. Luckily, there’s an organisation that has done all the research for you. The European New Car Assessment Programme, EuroNCAP for short, has been testing vehicle safety for decades. By entering the vehicle make and model at its website, you can see its EuroNCAP scores, and not only for the latest issue, but for later years which is handy if you’re looking to buy a used car.

Check a vehicle’s EuroNCAP safety rating here.

New legislation coming soon

You may start hearing about the EU General Safety Regulation which will come into force in 2022 and introduce wide-ranging safety measures. Although it is an EU law, the UK’s regulator has agreed to adopt its standards, which safety campaigners have warmly welcomed. In 2022, all new car models will come with most of the safety features listed above, plus others such as data recorders. And all new cars, regardless of whether they’re new models or not, will be fitted with these features from 2024. So, in a few years’ time, all new cars will come with these things as standard to make the roads a much safer place – and car buying that little bit easier!

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