There’s a lot of new active safety features in today’s vehicles automatically monitor and take control of your vehicle if needed in an emergency. Here’s how they work, how they make your drive safer, and which ones you probably want in your next ride.

Intelligent Brake Assist

Intelligent Brake Assist is Nissan’s technology package that helps avoid rear-end collisions. Nissan engineers find this important because nearly half of all two-vehicle crashes are rear-end collisions according to the NHTSA. This system works through the use of a laser rangefinder, much like you would find used in golf and hunting. Placed in the front bumper, the laser and sensors continuously calculate the distance to the vehicle in front of you. If the onboard computer notices that the vehicle ahead is slowing or stopped, it will alert you with a flashing light on the dash and a series of beeps. If you are too busy texting (please don’t do that), the computer will calculate your last minute reaction to avoid a collision, and will step in slightly before then by automatically applying the brakes. Infiniti calls it Forward Emergency Braking, but it’s the same thing. You can find this on models like the Nissan Rogue and Infiniti Q60.

Toyota Safety Sense

Toyota Safety Sense is a bundle of active safety features found on a wide range of Toyota vehicles. The first part is the Pre-Collision System, which is basically the Nissan IBA above, under a different name. Not paying attention? It tries to warn you, then pulls an emergency stop. Next is the Lane Departure Alert. Two vehicles involved in a head-on collision is the most lethal collision type, and Toyota looks to prevent them by placing a camera on your vehicle’s windshield. This watches the road, specifically the lanes and your travel path, and alerts you when you stray into the next lane. Automatic High Beams uses the same camera to sense oncoming traffic, and automatically dims the headlights when other drivers approach. Last, is Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. While using cruise control on the highway, a smartphone-sized radar in the front bumper pings the vehicle in front of you, sensing distance and closure speed. The computer adjusts your vehicle’s speed to match, helping you maintain a safe distance. You can find Toyota Safety Sense on most models, like the Toyota Corolla and RAV4, as well as the Highlander and Tundra.

Active Park Assist

If you failed parallel parking on your driver’s test, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Ford understands the 2.3 times per year you need to parallel park are not enough practice to become great at it, so they help you out with this nifty feature. The steering is what messes people up, so the vehicle handles that for you. Just pull up and ahead of the space you want to park in, just like you normally would. Activate the system and shift into reverse. This lets the computer use the rear camera to determine where the vehicle should go. The driver still controls the accelerator and brakes, but YouTube shows the system doesn’t miss, so just hit the brakes to stop when you think it’s good. Then take credit for that awesome parking job. Active Park Assist is currently found on a bunch of Ford vehicles, like the Ford Focus and Escape, and Lincoln MKC and Navigator.

Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Let’s say you’re fortunate enough to park normally instead of parallel parking on a congested street. With all the SUVs on the road, backing out of a busy parking spot can be a pain because you can’t see the coming cross-traffic. Rear Cross Traffic Alert operates similarly to some of the above safety systems, but only when backing up. A radar in the rear bumper has a 180-degree view of the parking lot, and can detect and warn you of any oncoming traffic. It even displays an arrow with the alert, so you know which way the traffic is coming from. Most Chevrolet vehicles have this feature, including the Cruze, Traverse, Impala, and Suburban.

Just a friendly reminder, these systems are not foolproof. They are designed to augment and assist your attentive driving, not let you sleep at the wheel. They do a good job too, as the IIHS reports active safety features can reduce accidents by 40 percent.

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