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What Driver Assist Systems Should You Be Looking for on Your Next New Car?

If it's been some time since you bought a brand new car in the UK, and you are surfing the web for some inspiration, you'll want to know what your money can buy you today. You may be particularly interested in the current technology levels and how they can make your job behind the wheel more effortless and a lot safer. So what are some of the latest driver-assist systems found on new cars in 2020?

Intelligent Parking Assist

If you struggle to reverse your car into a tight parking space, you'll love this technology. While it's been around since the turn of the century, manufacturers now fit it to many new cars today. 

Various sensors detect any obstacles and help to calculate steering angles during a manoeuvre. The computer will then send this data to the power steering system, and the manoeuvre needs little if any input from the driver. Nevertheless, you can override the process at any time by touching the steering wheel or brake pedal.

Adaptive Cruise Control

Cruise control was one of the very first semiautonomous driver aids, but it's far more intelligent today. 

A radar or laser system mounts to the front of the vehicle and can tell where obstacles are in relation to your car at all times. Once you have set your required speed and the distance you'd like to maintain from any vehicle in front, the technology will take care of the rest. Should the vehicle in front of you slow down, your car will automatically follow suit to maintain the required distance. 

If you spend a lot of time driving on motorways, this type of system can certainly make life a lot easier.

Adaptive Front Lighting System 

As the British winter days can be so short, you may spend a lot of time driving in the dark, so an adaptive front lighting system could be very advantageous. This system will adjust your low beam headlights, so they always point in the intended direction of travel.

Without such a system, those headlights would always point straight ahead when you were approaching a corner. With this system, they'll automatically shift based on your steering input and speed so that they begin to illuminate the curve ahead instead. Other sensors will help to keep the lights level as the vehicle responds to cornering forces.

Blindspot Monitoring 

Most advanced driver systems rely on sensors of some kind, and on your new car, you'll find them on the side mirrors or the tips of each bumper. They'll automatically detect any vehicles travelling in an adjacent lane and warn you before you inadvertently cross into their path. Some products will automatically adjust if you are towing a trailer and the more sophisticated systems may even take over steering input to help you avoid an imminent collision.

Some blindspot monitoring products will also sound a warning if you are reversing and cannot see something in your way. 

Automatic Emergency Braking

Everyone gets distracted behind the wheel from time to time and, unfortunately, this can often lead to an accident. With an automatic emergency braking system in place, however, technology could spring to the rescue.

Sensors will detect an imminent collision and automatically alert the driver. If the driver does not respond quickly enough, the computer will instantly apply the brakes to either slow down or stop the vehicle as quickly and safely as possible. Sometimes the driver will apply the brakes but not fast enough. In this case, the system will automatically increase the pressure in a process known as "dynamic brake support."

Forward Collision Warning

The technology here is similar, in many respects, to adaptive cruise control. Sensors will monitor the speed of a vehicle travelling in front of you and the relative distance between the two. If you inadvertently get too close, the sensors will activate an audible (and sometimes visual) warning. Some systems will also apply the brakes automatically (see automated emergency braking above).

Other products will also warn you if they detect a pedestrian's presence in front of your car.

Hill Start Assist

In the days before electronic technology became a "thing," if your car had a manual gearbox and you were on an incline, you would have to synchronise your clutch foot with your handbrake. However, you needn't worry about rolling into the car behind you now, as hill start assist can save you the embarrassment. Here, sensors detect the incline and will maintain pressure on the brakes until the clutch mates with the flywheel, and you move forward.

Many new vehicles have an electronic parking brake system anyway, and this works with the hill start assist sensors.

Lane Departure Warning

With this system in place, a front-mounted camera will monitor the road ahead and, specifically, the lane markers on each side. If you lose concentration and wander towards the edge of the lane, you'll get an audible or visual warning. Sometimes, the seat or steering wheel will vibrate as well to wake you up to the danger.

Some systems will automatically adjust the steering or apply the brakes to keep the vehicle in its lane while others are even more precise, to make sure that the car is always right in the centre of the lane. Note, the sensors will switch off when you activate the turn signal, so you can change lanes as needed.

Traffic Sign Recognition

If your new car has this technology onboard, you will get an automatic warning whenever you encounter certain traffic signs. A forward-facing camera will scan the road ahead and then display a warning on the dashboard or directly in front of you if you use a heads up display. Some brand-new systems may automatically adjust the vehicle if, for example, the camera detects a lower speed limit ahead. This type of technology is particularly useful if you are driving in an unfamiliar area.

Driver Alert Detection

These systems have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years. While many of them may utilise the forward-facing camera used by the lane departure warning concept, others can now monitor the driver's behaviour. They can differentiate between active, "awake" movements and those associated with someone who may be drifting off to sleep. Facial recognition technology may soon become an integral part of these safety systems, to look for signs of drowsiness.