Vehicles today come with any number of high-tech safety features. They are designed to make the driving experience as safe as possible. Plenty of new technologies will help keep you and your passengers out of harm’s way. However, many of the latest and greatest safety features are still optional add-ons. That means you’ll probably be paying extra in order to drive the safest version of your car.
That naturally begs the question: are these features necessary? And are they worth the additional cost?
We decided to unpack and analyze the most popular advanced safety features sold today. We will tell you which ones are indispensable and which ones are nothing more than a shameless cash grab. Here’s a list of some of the more popular vehicle safety features and whether or not they are worth your hard-earned money.
Blind Spot Monitoring
Cost: $500 to $750
This safety system is designed to compensate for one of the longest standing problems with vehicles. Namely, the blind spot that exists in every vehicle’s side mirror. If you’ve forgotten from Driver’s Ed, the blind spot in the space slightly behind and beside your car. If there’s a car there, you cannot see it via looking out your side window, nor in your side mirror. The only solution is to physically turn your head and look behind you for a moment.
Although you’re always supposed to check your blind spot, it leads to a large number of accidents every year. A blind-spot monitoring system provides a visual or audible alert when another car is detected there. It should prevent you from carelessly changing lanes into someone.
Is It Worth It?
The blind spot monitoring system is worth it for two reasons. First of all, this safety feature helps with a very real problem that causes very real accidents. The blind spot exists in nearly all vehicle side mirrors. It’s a genuine problem, leading to plenty of costly accidents and injuries. Second, most blind spot monitoring options aren’t that expensive. They typically cost less than $1,000. It’s an affordable safety feature that helps with a real potential driving hazard. For these reasons, we recommend blind-spot monitoring.
Automatic Emergency Braking
Cost: $1,000 to $1,250
Speaking of collisions, there is a high-tech safety feature designed to help prevent those from happening at all. It’s called automatic emergency braking. It uses sensors and cameras to automatically apply the brakes in the event of an imminent collision. It’s extremely useful in cases of distracted driving, or any other time that you are unable to react in time to a sudden obstacle in front of your car. Tests have shown that cars equipped with this feature are quicker to automatically apply the brakes than a person behind the wheel. So, in that respect, this could be a worthwhile safety feature to have in your vehicle.
Is It Worth It?
There’s no question that this safety feature can prevent accidents and even save lives. Whether it’s worth the cost of around $1,000 (or more) will depend on your budget and what type of driver you are. If you have the extra money and are the type of driver who gets distracted easily, then automatic emergency braking are definitely worth it. However, if you’re an attentive driver and don’t have an extra $1,000 to spend, then you may want to file this safety feature away. You know, in the category of “nice to have, but not completely necessary.”
Forward or Rear Collision Warning
Cost: About $1,000
Here’s another safety feature that is aimed at helping to avoid collisions. Short of actually applying the brakes for you, this feature detects impending front- or rear-end collisions with vehicles or other objects. It then warns you through through a combination of alarms, vibrations, and visual lights. This feature won’t actually prevent a collision, but it will alert you in time to react appropriately.
Is It Worth It?
It comes down to which collision safety system would you want for around $1,000. Do you want one that simply warns you that you’re about to crash? Or the system that goes one step further and applies the brakes automatically if a collision is coming? In our opinion, if you’re going to spend $1,000 on an option designed to prevent collisions, you’re better off to go with the aforementioned automatic emergency braking. This other system, which is merely a warning, is also good. However, stopping the vehicle and preventing a collision altogether is even better.
Lane-Departure Warning and Lane-Keeping Assist
Cost: $500 to $1,500
Many accidents happen we change lanes carelessly or accidentally drift over the line. It’s a big problem. Big enough that engineers have developed lane-departure warning systems. This technology triggers various warnings when sensors around the vehicle detect that you are about to accidently cross into another lane. It’s designed to ensure that your car doesn’t wander from lane to lane, regardless of the reason.
For a bit more money, the lane-departure warning system can be paired with lane-keeping assist. Rather than simply alerting you when your vehicle is about to leave its lane, this system automatically applies steering or braking adjustments to keep your vehicle within your lane. It’s one of the many autonomous driving systems that are slowly helping our cars drive themselves.
Is It Worth It?
Drifting out of your own lane when other vehicles are present is a legitimate danger. It’s also one that can be avoided with lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist. For this reason, we feel that this type of safety feature is definitely worth the cost. Especially if you do a lot of driving on multi-lane highways. Like the blind-spot monitoring system, this safety feature addresses a very real issue on the roads today.
Cost: $400 to $600
Who among us couldn’t use some help parallel parking? Surveys show that parallel parking is often cited as the most stressful part of a driving test. It’s also the part of the test that more people fail than anything else. Even experienced drivers often find it difficult to parallel park between two cars. Depending on the available space, it can be difficult to maneuver a car while parallel parking. Parking assist aims to help with this vexing problem.
A computer system uses power steering to turn the wheel for you. It will move the car into a parking space automatically. It’s literally like hands-free parking. Parking assist uses sensors to prevent your car from hitting any other objects. Different models and systems have slightly different functions, but they are each designed to accomplish the same goal – expertly parking a vehicle without your help.
Is It Worth It?
We feel that this feature is firmly in the “nice to have” category. Having a car that automatically parks itself is hardly a life-saving feature. While it might be fun (and mildly impressive) to see your car park itself, it’s not really a necessity. The only thing this feature will really do is prevent a few nicks and scratches on your paint job. It’s completely optional, in our opinion. Especially if you’re confident in your parking abilities.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Cost: $2,000 to $2,500
If you use regular cruise control, you’re sure to be interested in adaptive cruise control. While traditional cruise control simply maintains a set speed, adaptive cruise takes it one step further. It uses sensors and cameras to automatically adjust your traveling speed to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and surrounding traffic.
While traditional cruise control is used almost exclusively on highways, adaptive cruise control can be used in a variety of driving environments. That includes some city conditions. Enthusiasts say adaptive cruise control is much safer than traditional cruise control, as it automatically accounts for other vehicles on the road. It will keep your car a safe speed for traffic flow, actively accelerating or decelerating depending on your surroundings.
Is It Worth It?
If you’re going to use cruise control, then adaptive cruise control sounds like the safer bet. The question is, how often are you likely to use cruise control? You need to be sure that you’ll use it enough to justify the cost. At $2,000 to $2,500 extra, it’s one of the most expensive safety feature on this list. That said, the cost might be worth it. If you do a lot of long driving — we’re talking regular trips of an hour or more — you would probably take advantage of this feature.
The Last Word
Car safety is a constantly evolving world. It wasn’t that long ago that features like seatbelts, crumple zones, and airbags were experimental add-ons. Now, they are standard on every car built. You can bet that many of the features on this list will soon become standard safety features too. In fact, new legislation may require it.
Until then, though, manufactures are happy to slap a price tag on these “extra” safety features. Some brands include a handful of them in their standard models to entice you to buy from them instead of a competitor. High-end brands offer a combination of these automatic driving features in some sort of “self-driving” option. While cars aren’t quite able to fully drive themselves yet, the technology is getting closer.
Make no mistake, though. Cars have never been safer, whether you spring for the advanced safety features or not. However, many of these new technologies have already been proven to prevent accidents and save lives. Or just save you the hassle of parallel parking.