Understanding active safety technologies

budds auto safetyIf you’re thinking of buying a new car, safety is an important consideration.

Airbags, head restraints, and crumple zones are examples of passive safety systems you might take for granted: all cars have them, even if some perform better than others.

But what about new safety technologies that are starting to appear?

Here’s a Budds’-style introduction so you can decide if you want them on your next Chevy, Buick, Cadillac or GMC vehicle.

“Passive” versus “active” safety

Cars have become much safer since 1976 when Ontario first required drivers to wear seatbelts. Head restraints reduce whiplash, airbags keep you away from the steering wheel and side intrusion beams strengthen doors against “T-bone” collisions.

These are all examples of what engineers call “passive” safety systems. They protect the people inside the car when something bad happens.

But wouldn’t it be better though to avoid those bad events in the first place?

That’s what’s called “active safety.” The term refers to safety technologies that detect when an accident is about to happen. Some alert the driver to a potentially dangerous situation while others go further by actually taking evasive action.

These Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) combine cameras and other sensors with sophisticated software. As costs come down and performance improves GM is making many standard, while others are available in options packages. Here’s a breakdown of what these systems are and what they do.

Blind spot warning

No matter how much care you take in adjusting your mirrors, there’s often a blind spot on both sides of your car. Blind spot warning systems alert you to vehicles hiding in this region by lighting a yellow icon in the door mirror. On a Cadillac or Buick this feature is called Side Blind Zone Alert.

An advanced system, like that in Buicks and Cadillacs, also lets you know if another vehicle is getting too close during a lane change maneuver. If you’re looking at the specifications this function will be called Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert.

Lane Departure Warning (LDW)

Have you ever found yourself drifting over the white lines, or seen another car doing so? It’s easily done, especially if you’re tired. LDW uses cameras to track where your car is in relation to the lane markings. If you’re not using your turn signals the system assumes your lane change is not intentional and gives you a little warning. In some cars this is a buzzer, others vibrate the seat. And yes, these systems work at night, although they’re not so effective on a snow-covered highway!

Lane Keep Assist

An addition to LDW, this takes charge if you’re drifting out of the lane and gently nudges you back where you should be.

Active Cruise Control

While more of a convenience feature than a safety device, the sensors in active cruise are also used for our next technology, so we’ll mention it here.

When active cruise control is enabled it constantly measures the distance to the car in front. If the gap gets too small—typically because someone else cuts into it—active cruise eases off on the gas until the gap opens up again. The Buick system is called, “Adaptive Full-Speed Cruise Control w/Stop/GO” because it works even when you come to a halt on a busy highway.

Another benefit is that the system tells you if you’re accidentally getting too close to the car in front. This feature goes by the name of Following Distance Indicator.

Forward Collision Alert

budds auto safety child in carseatThere can be situations where you don’t realize that the vehicle ahead has stopped. That’s where Forward Collision Alert comes in. Using the sensors in Active Cruise, if it thinks you need to start braking, it lets you know in no uncertain terms!

Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking

This is like Forward Collision Alert, except it actually applies the brakes for you to minimize the damage from an accident. At very low speeds it can stop the car before an impact occurs.

Rear view or back up camera

As from May 2018 these will be required on all cars sold in Canada. You’ll find most cars already have them though. They’re an excellent tool for avoiding accidents when reversing and they even help with parking!

Curious about what’s available on your favourite vehicle? Ask us!

Not all this technology is standard on every vehicle, and sometimes it goes by other names.

To learn more about availability, come down to Budds’ Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC and speak with one of our sales professionals.