When it comes to vehicle safety features, the feedback experts receive seems surprisingly mixed. Drivers may expect that any safety feature would be helpful. However, the designs and functions vary widely, and the differences could affect the outcome in a traffic situation. 

Car and Driver provides a long list of the driver-assistance features that are currently available, although many are only included in more expensive models, or else drivers must add them at considerable expense. However, many are becoming standard. 

Some of the differences between systems come down to whether the driver receives an alert that there is an issue or the vehicle takes over. For example, forward-collision warning tells the driver that something is dangerously close to the front of the vehicle. Automated emergency braking stops the vehicle without driver input if the driver does not respond quickly enough to a warning. The same is true for lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist systems. 

Other features on the list include the following: 

  • Adaptive cruise control 
  • Blind-spot monitors 
  • Automatic high beams 
  • Parking sensors 
  • Active park assist 
  • Back-up cameras 

A few manufacturers have models with semi-autonomous driving. These are not truly autonomous systems, but they provide vehicles with the ability to steer themselves within a lane or change lanes when necessary while maintaining safe speeds. 

ABC News reports that surveys of drivers and experts reveal a belief that technology puts drivers at risk of becoming more distracted and more careless. For example, if drivers rely on the blind-spot warning to detect vehicles rather than checking mirrors and looking over their shoulder before changing lanes, it could lead to accidents. Some monitoring systems are more sensitive than others, and a sensor may miss a fast-moving motorcycle because of its size and speed. 

The key to safety technology, manufacturers say, is to use it to eliminate risk, not to replace caution.