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New Car Technology: Popularity, Crashes — and How to Pick the Best Option for You

More than 90% of new vehicle models can be equipped with some type of advanced driver assistance system, or ADAS.

We’ll break down some of the more prominent new car technologies and discuss what you should consider when buying a car. We talked to experts and looked at data to help you.

What are the most popular new car technologies?

Advanced driver assistance systems can help humans make fewer errors. But driving may be one of the most dangerous things you do today.

In 2018, an estimated 36,750 — or 100-plus per day — people died in vehicle crashes, according to the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Human error while driving accounts for about 94% of collisions, per the NHTSA.

Here are the most popular ADAS options, according to Tom Musick, senior program manager of transportation safety at the National Safety Council:

  • Automatic emergency braking: This system is able to sense potential collisions. It automatically applies the brakes to avoid the collision or lessen the severity of impact.
  • Blind spot warning: This detects other vehicles in adjacent lanes toward the rear of the car and alerts the driver.
  • Lane departure warning: This monitors the vehicle’s position within driving lanes and alerts the driver as the vehicle nears or crosses lane markers.

There are other common ADAS technologies as well. Depending on where and how you drive, they could make driving easier:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Surround view camera
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Automatic high beams
  • Rear cross traffic warning
  • Driver monitoring

Do advanced driver assistance systems reduce crashes, deaths?

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) studies have shown a 50% reduction in rear-end crashes in vehicles with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

And “we will have fewer traffic jams due to fewer rear-end crashes,” said Dr. Daniel McGehee, director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator Laboratories at the University of Iowa.

As advanced driver assistance systems became more readily available in the mid- to late 2000s, the number of traffic fatalities dropped, according to the NHTSA. Since then, the number of fatalities year over year has risen just three times — 2012, 2015 and 2016.

In 2016, the number of traffic fatalities reached 37,806 — the highest since 2008. The U.S. Department of Transportation shows that the largest increases in vehicle deaths that year involved pedestrians (up 9%) and motorcyclists (up 5.1%).

The exact cause of this sudden rise in vehicle-related fatalities is unclear. However, the IIHS points at higher speed limits, which would make it more difficult to stop in cases involving pedestrians and motorcycles. And research done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggested 29% of deaths could have been potentially been preventable if the passenger vehicles involved had certain ADAS technologies.

After the 2016 increase in deaths, traffic fatalities have dropped in 2017 and 2018.

Are there downsides to advanced driver assistance systems?

Many automakers have advanced driver assistance systems as standard in their models. For example, the 2019 Toyota Yaris comes with a low-speed emergency automatic braking system. Its starting MSRP is $15,600.

The cost to buy a new vehicle with this technology isn’t as prohibitive as one might expect. However, the repair costs could make you do a double take.

Repair costs

Having advanced driver assistance systems can more than double repair costs, but you may save elsewhere.

A 5-inch dent to a rear bumper could cost $4,000 to fix if your vehicle has sensors, McGehee said, rather than a $1,500 bill if you didn’t (depending on insurance). The added cost is related to the sensors and calibration.

But if you didn’t have the advanced driver assistance system sensors, you could have more costly medical and mechanic bills.

Limitations

“Advanced driver assistance systems are just that — driver assistance systems, not driver replacement systems,” an AAA representative told LendingTree.

According to its research, 80% of drivers were unaware of blind spot monitoring limitations, such as being unable to detect vehicles passing at a high speed. Almost 40% of drivers were unaware of the limitations on forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

How do you choose the right ADAS for you?

It depends on what type of driving you do — and where you do it, McGehee said.

“If you drive in Manhattan, you might look into pedestrian detection,” Musick said. “Lane departure warning could really help if you’re driving long miles on the interstate.”

So how can drivers educate themselves?

  • MyCarDoesWhat.org is a nonprofit resource that covers new car technologies, how they work and how to use them.
  • Automakers, such as Chevrolet and Subaru, often have webpages to explain their advanced driver assistance systems.

What about self-driving cars? While science fiction shows might have forecast that we would have self-driving, flying cars by now, we’re not there yet. “We’re pretty far still from automated vehicles dominating our roads,” Musick said.

What should you watch out for when shopping?

Many automakers package ADAS features together, such as Toyota Safety Sense, Honda Sensing and Ford Co-Pilot360.

Pay attention to the exact features in the package that is on the vehicle you’re considering. Even though a package suite might be on the vehicle, a specific feature might not be.

Many automakers will include and exclude ADAS features within the safety suites in an a-la-carte style, depending on the vehicle, the trim and the powertrain. You may have to upgrade the vehicle to get a specific feature you want.

For example, the MSRP on the middle trim of the 2019 Chevrolet Trax is $20,695. But if you want to add blind spot alert, you’ll need to add the Driver Confidence Package, which costs an extra $495. However, if you try to add that package, a pop-up tells you that you must also upgrade several other features to the tune of $945. This makes your new price for the vehicle $21,640, with several upgrades — including three ADAS features — just for wanting blind spot alert.

In total, you could expect to spend about $1,000 to $2,000 for a safety package if it isn’t already included on a vehicle.

The bottom line on new car technology

New car technology has the potential to greatly reduce the amount and severity of vehicle collisions and deaths.

“It’s an exciting time to see these technologies that we’ve been involved in developing for over 25 years come to fruition,” McGehee said. He said he helped work on the first forward collision warning prototype in 1991.

Yet, we still need to pay attention when we drive. Vehicles require an active driver. For all the benefits that advanced driver assistance systems offer, it is to assist — not replace — a driver.

“For the foreseeable future, you are going to be your car’s best safety feature,” Musick said.

 

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