Chevrolet’s Surround Vision technology uses four cameras: the standard Rear Vision Camera, a forward-looking camera in the front grille and two side-looking cameras under each side mirror.
As the concept of auto safety has migrated from occupant protection to accident avoidance, a growing number of cars and trucks in virtually all vehicle segments now offer blind-spot, lane departure and/or forward collision warning systems to help prevent drivers from getting into crashes. The latest can take control of the car to prevent hitting another vehicle, or even pedestrians and bicyclists in its path. Here’s a quick look at advanced safety systems that take the concept to another level and for the most part provide the building blocks for tomorrow’s self-driving vehicles. Adaptive cruise control: In its most basic form, this system uses forward-looking sensors to maintain both a vehicle’s set speed and a safe distance from the traffic ahead, automatically operating the throttle and brakes to slow down and speed up accordingly. The latest systems can bring the vehicle to a complete stop if necessary, and a few can even operate in stop-and-go highway traffic to reduce rush-hour stress.
Back-up monitor. Here, a bumper-mounted camera sends an image of what’s behind the car or truck to a dashboard display when reverse gear is engaged for easier parallel parking and, to help avoid hitting other cars and pedestrians while backing up. Some models use multiple cameras to provide a 360-degree view of what’s around the vehicle. A few General Motors vehicles display a rear camera feed continuously via an electronic rearview mirror that’s unobstructed by passengers’ heads, headrests and the rear window opening. It’s claimed to improve the rearward field of vision by 300 percent. Blind-spot warning. The typical system gives the driver visual and audible warnings when there’s another vehicle to the side and rear that he or she might not be able to see in a side mirror; some also warn of cross-traffic when backing out of a garage or parking space. Recent systems from Mercedes-Benz and BMW go a step further and will engage the brakes to prevent a driver from changing lanes if there’s another vehicle alongside.
Forward collision warning/intervention. Using the same sensors as adaptive cruise control, the system warns the driver if the vehicle is closing in on another car (or other obstruction) at a potentially hazardous rate of speed. Nissan’s latest system will also keep tabs on the next car or truck ahead of the one in front for added safety.
The best systems will go a step further and apply the brakes at full force if the driver isn’t reacting quickly enough. Volvo now includes the ability to identify and brake to avoid hitting pedestrians, bicyclists and even large animals like deer and elk; some Volkswagens will automatically hold the brakes after a primary collision to prevent or minimize the severity of any subsequent crashes that might occur. Lane departure systems. Designed to signal an alert when a vehicle is inadvertently wandering into another lane on the highway, more advanced Lane Keeping Assist systems will use braking and/or steering intervention to help “nudge” a wandering car back into the center of a lane if its drifted onto or across the markers. Volvo now offers a Run-Off Road Mitigation system that helps keep a car from inadvertently running off the side of the road via both steering and braking action. At the leading edge, so-called lane centering systems on a few high-end luxury cars will make continuous steering adjustments autonomously to help keep a vehicle centered within highway lane markers (though the driver still needs to keep his or her hands on the wheel).