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Safety Features Top AAA’s 2012 Automotive Technology Trends List

March 06, 2012

ORLANDO, FL – AAA recently released an overview for 2012 of the automotive technologies that were once mainly offered in luxury vehicles but have made their way into a wide range of vehicles.

“Technologies like anti-lock braking and stability control were once seen as pioneering innovations and are now required or standard features,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Looking to the future, we hope the cost for these technologies continues to come down, allowing more drivers to enjoy the safety, economy and performance they provide.”

Some of the trends seen by AAA include:

Brake Assist: This feature recognizes when a driver has just instituted an emergency stop. The system then applies full braking power, even if the driver has not pressed the brake pedal hard enough to do this. If the driver backs off the brakes, the system steps out of the picture. AAA said automakers first offered this feature in some vehicles in the mid-90s.

Parking Proximity Warning Systems and Backup Cameras: Originally a luxury car exclusive, today parking sensors and back up cameras are far more common, even on popularly priced vehicles.

Lane Departure Warning Systems: This type of system was originally offered on top Infiniti models, but today, lane departure warning systems are more widely available.

Active Cruise Control: This feature, once a luxury car exclusive, uses radar or laser to maintain a set distance from the car ahead. If a driver using such a system encounters slower traffic, the cruise control will automatically reduce speed by backing off the throttle. If the traffic clears or speeds up, the active cruise control will return to the driver’s original speed. Newer systems can also apply the brakes when needed to maintain a safe following distance. In some cases the active cruise control system will actually bring the car to a stop if the traffic ahead stops.

Stop-Start: Stop-start technology automatically stops the gasoline engine while the driver waits for a red light to turn green. It saves fuel while reducing emissions. AAA said to expect more near-term use of this technology as automakers work to meet higher CAFE standards set for 2016. 

Driver Alert Warning System: Driver alert warning systems use a range of methods to monitor the alertness or attention of a driver, from lane departure to monitoring the driver’s movements via cameras.

Blind Spot Warning Systems: This warning system uses a radar or camera to detect and warn a driver that another vehicle is lurking just out of view in an adjacent lane. First seen in costly vehicles, it is now standard equipment is some family vehicles, including several Mazda models, AAA stated.

Weight Reduction: Weight reduction is one area in which lower-priced cars were the pioneers while many luxury car makers and buyers stuck to the theory that heavier is better, according to AAA.

“AAA has conducted reviews of new automobiles for many years,” said AAA’s Ginnie Pritchett. “Part of the review process is to document various features (or lack of) that we believe are relevant to new and used car buyers. This year, the technology release was based on technologies that are becoming more available in 2011 and some 2012 vehicles. Selecting the top technologies is done by a small group of individuals who have had extended drive time in the majority of new cars for each model year.  The list is not exhaustive but reflects the most common or important technologies based on the reviewers experience and the qualitative review data.”

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