Your car knows best: These new auto safety features will surprise you

car safety features

Your car knows more than you think. Like when you’re about to rear-end the vehicle in front of you. Or when you’re close to colliding with another car in the parking lot. Or when you’re too tired to drive.

Yes, too tired.

On a recent road trip, my Volvo XC-90 calmly informed me I was too fatigued to continue driving. It even suggested a hotel where I could stop for the night. How thoughtful.

The Volvo features are part of a suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) — and they have legions of fans. Zach Shefska, also an XC-90 driver, is among them. ADAS has saved his hide a time or two.

“There were times when I simply did not see another car while making a turn,” says Shefska, CEO of Your Auto Advocate, a customer advocacy site for car buyers and owners. “Even though I didn’t see a vehicle, the vehicle’s computer systems did. I was fortunate for that, since the car automatically braked and alerted me to the object in front of me.”

Experts credit ADAS-equipped vehicles with lowering accident rates and saving lives. Cars with ADAS showed a 27% reduction in bodily injury claim frequency and a 19% reduction in property damage frequency, according to research by LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

But have these safety features gone too far? Have they created nanny cars, where the freedom to drive as you please has been removed by a safety engineer and an overeager algorithm? Does your car know too much?


No doubt: ADAS cars are safer

ADAS includes a range of features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, collision warning, cross-traffic alert and road sign recognition. The vehicles can tell if you’ve left your lane or if you’re about to hit a pedestrian.

And let’s get one thing out of the way. ADAS cars are safer, no matter how you look at them. Data compiled from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and manufacturers by CCC Information Services suggests ADAS-equipped cars have anywhere from a 20% to 50% reduction in crashes. It projects a steep drop in accidents over the next 30 years thanks to ADAS.

“There is hope that advances in vehicle technology such as ADAS will, over time, lead to fewer accidents, and subsequently fewer people and vehicles to fix,” says Susanna Gotsch, director of industry analysis at CCC Information Services.

More safety features: ADAS cars are everywhere now

The global ADAS market size will increase from $27 billion this year to $83 billion by 2030, according to Research and Markets. That’s an annual growth rate of nearly 12%.

Your car already knows a lot. It might have safety features you’re not aware of, until you’re almost in an accident.

“We’ve seen that new vehicle safety technology isn’t just arriving on the car market, it’s being included as standard equipment on more and more models,” says Matt Smith, a deputy editor at

He says the push to bring advanced driver assistance systems to the masses, often at no extra cost, benefits drivers.

“For example, some technologies such as blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist help drivers stay relaxed, fresh, and alert behind the wheel,” he says. “Many vehicle owners may be surprised to experience how a little help from the car can keep them feeling rested during long highway drives.”

Experts say this is just the beginning.

“There will be more safety features coming soon,” says Andy Hanvey, director of automotive marketing for OmniVision Technologies, a manufacturer of image sensors.

My nanny car surprised me, too

My nanny car was full of surprises. If you drive the hybrid XC-90, you’ll soon forget the last time you visited a gas station. The interior is thoughtfully designed. My 15-year-old son calls it the “business class” car because even the back seat has ample legroom and comfortable captain’s chairs.

But the similarities with premium air travel don’t end there. Just like the overly helpful flight attendants in the front of the plane (“Can I get you anything else?”, “May I help you with that?”), the car keeps a watchful eye on you.

My first surprise came when I tried to back out of a parking spot. A sensor alert buzzed and then the car hit the brakes for me. Like Shefska, I avoided a collision with another vehicle by a few inches. It turns out there’s a feature on the XC-90 called Cross Traffic Alert with Autobrake. It’s a radar-assisted technology that prevents rear collisions. And it worked — although it also scared the living daylights out of me. My car had a mind of its own.p

But the suggestion to pull over and sleep was my biggest surprise. Volvo refers to this as a feature designed to “improve driver alertness” — and it definitely got my attention. If your grip on the steering wheel relaxes too much, or if you wander out of your lane, that flight attendant pounces. First, there’s a chime. Then there’s a drowsiness alert message, along with a suggestion to pull over. It’s a specific suggestion, with the name of a hotel and directions, if you want them.

When I got the alert, I was driving down I-580 in Reno, Nev. It was 10 a.m., and I think I know why the system had been triggered. I’d reached for my coffee, and the car assumed I was about to pass out. I wasn’t.

Your car knows: Drivers give ADAS autos rave reviews

While some find ADAS features too intrusive, many feel better protected.

Mary Liberty-Traughber just bought at a new Ford Edge Titanium and says she’s impressed by all the safety features in the SUV. Her favorite so far is the car’s driver assistance system.

“I have the lane-centering feature and the feature that slows the car down when you approach another car from the rear,” says Liberty-Traughber, who works for a resort in Pendleton, Ore. “I’m amazed at all the different features I have now that I didn’t have only a few years ago. The technology has advanced immensely in this car.”

Karen Cummings, a retired communications consultant from Fryeburg, Maine, also loves the feature on her late model Hyundai Kona that alerts you when the car in front of you bakes hard.

“I tend to look around when driving,” she says. “I like to look at a house for sale by the side of the road. Or new construction. Or the beautiful fall foliage right now. Having the car brake and beep at me has saved me a few times.”

Sarah Ratliff credits her new Toyota RAV4 with saving her life. Last month, a pickup truck swerved into her lane.

“I don’t think the driver saw me in his blind spot,” says Ratliff, a writer who lives in Puerto Rico. “Before I could react, my car’s brakes engaged hard. I came to a grinding halt. Fortunately the car behind me was able to stop in time.”

Bottom line: It’s hard to find drivers who will badmouth any ADAS features in their car. Their cars know a lot about them, and they are comfortable with that.

The downside of ADAS? Too much tech in the car

But the concept of an all-knowing car has plenty of critics, too. One common complaint is the cost of servicing ADAS cars. The technology is expensive to fix, and sometimes only the manufacturer can repair it. That drives up ownership costs.

Experts also ask who really benefits from all the gadgets. George Hoffer, an emeritus professor of transportation economics at Virginia Commonwealth University, says it’s not car manufacturers, or the mechanics, nor even the drivers.

“The real winners from the adoption of new automotive safety appliances are auto insurers,” he says. “While personal injury claims are fewer in number than property damage claims, the former are much more expensive. By reducing the frequency and severity of personal injury claims, insurers are the real winners. This explains why the insurers have lobbied and promoted these appliances for 50 years.”

Another criticism: There’s just too much technology. That’s what M. Daniel Smith, president or Capstone Financial Group, says. His investment bank, which focuses on automotive and mobility technology, sees all the new safety features before they arrive in your car. He suggests that we’re on the verge of being overloaded by tech.

“The problem with much of the technology is not so much whether it works or not, but whether the consumer is comfortable with it and even shuts it off before they have time to really test it,” he explains.

Smith thinks some ADAS technologies are keepers. Lane change warning and adaptive cruise control will become as standard as seat belts.

Things could get even more interesting

Down the road, things could get even more interesting. We’ve already had the summer of the EV. Here comes the tech.

“Eye monitoring is very popular and will probably be perfected within the next year or so,” he adds.

One promising company he’s working with monitors the driver’s temperature and brain waves. Another has developed gesture algorithms so the driver doesn’t have to touch any of the car’s knobs, but just sort of waves at them.

Experts like Glen De Vos refer to these features as Level 2+ functionality. Technology such as traffic jam assist and automated lane change could allow you to take your hands off the wheel in certain circumstances — safely.

But the systems also monitor your driving habits in a way that might also make you a little uncomfortable. Do you really want your car to see everything and to report it to your manufacturer, an insurance company or law enforcement?

“For example, if the platform sensing driver state knows you are looking at the radio while the exterior radars see a car cut into your lane, the active safety system can immediately issue a warning and tell you where to look,” says De Vos, a senior vice president at Aptiv, a technology company.

That’s the future of your car. It sees everything.

Making peace with my nanny car

I figured out how to stop the false alarms on my XC-90. If I held the steering wheel firmly and stayed in my lane, I would avoid the suggestions to pull over and take a nap.

That’s exactly what I did for the rest of my road trip. I clutched the steering wheel firmly and remained in my lane. Maybe that’s exactly what the nanny wanted.

What if this wasn’t a misguided algorithm added to the car by a well-intentioned Volvo engineer? What if it was a deliberate effort to improve the way people drive? In the past, I may have drifted into another lane without so much as a warning from the car or my passengers.

But that’s not good driving. Staying in my lane and keeping both hands on the wheel is.

And that’s how I made peace with my nanny car. The car knows when I’m being a bad driver and is trying to fix it.

She can be a little overbearing, but she means well.

Posted in Smart Consumer Tagged , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

%d bloggers like this: