6 High-Tech Car Safety Features
(and How to Get Them for Less)
Car buying can get expensive. Sure, you can always go with the base model to save money on a new car, but why not get the best of both worlds? The good news is you don’t have to sacrifice cutting edge car technology to accommodate your budget.
CARFAX recently conducted a survey asking what the most sought-after high-tech safety features would be on a consumer’s next vehicle. Not surprisingly, the technology demand is quickly growing – ultimately, . Here are the top 6 most desired tech safety features given in the survey (and tips to get them for less).
The survey revealed that 95% of shoppers were interested in back-up cameras – but only 57% of them consider it a necessity in their next vehicle. Just my two cents, go from a car without a camera to a car with a back-up camera – you’ll likely never go back.
So what do you do if you aren’t in the market for a new car, but still want this great additional tech? Head to any auto parts store nearby, and grab an aftermarket back-up or rear view camera system, spend a couple hours installing it, and voila. For under $100 you have just upgraded your car.
Bonus: some auto parts stores will actually install it for you for a nominal fee.
Do you want your car to tell you if you are about to back into a fence, or your mirrors blink at you when you have a car in your blind spot? If so, you are among the 43% of people that will look for which alerts and sensors are available on the next car purchased. Types of systems include things like backup sensors (different than the cameras discussed above) blind-spot warning systems, drowsiness alerts, forward collision warnings (FCW) and lane departure warnings.
If you are unfamiliar with lane departure warnings (LDW), they do exactly as they sound – they warn you if you start to drift outside your lane (if you don’t have your blinker on and when you are going more than 37mph). There are a few versions of LDW’s, some are as simple as just a light or beep that sounds when the camera senses you drifting, and some as advanced as to proactively keep the car centered and steer away from the lane edge (more about that below).
If you don’t plan to upgrade anytime soon (or have someone in your household that could use some help in spatial awareness help), there are a lot of options to upgrade your current ride with important alerts and sensors. Costs for these additions will depend on what you are trying to accomplish, but you can pick up these options starting as low as $100 for backup sensors, $250 for blind-spot warnings and $1000+ for forward-collision warning and lane departure warnings.
Tip: While forward-collision warnings can be installed aftermarket, it does not include an automatic braking system.
Driver-assist technologies are similar to alerts and sensors, but work when the car is actually in driving mode – alerting the driver to surroundings that could be dangerous. Think, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking, lane keep assist, and adaptive headlights. 66% of new car buyers are looking for these qualities in their next car, however the value of these technologies hasn’t quite caught up with the interest as only 34% of those same buyers would pay extra to have these features.
So what do you do if you are in the 66% of drivers but you aren’t ready to purchase yet? Because these features border on autonomous driving, they are little more difficult to come by unless you add them as an option on a new car. If you can find them, they will require some heavy lifting for installation as it will affect the car’s computer, steering columns, etc. Adaptive cruise control – also called autonomous cruise control – will keep your vehicle at a safe distance from the car in front of you while in cruise control mode. While ACC is becoming more common in new car models, retrofit kits will likely run you a minimum of $900. Adaptive headlights will run you about the same at around $800 minimum.
Tip: A few of the lane departure warning systems do come with adaptive cruise control, so you can kill two birds with one stone by purchasing one that includes both.
The most common example of driver override technology is automatic emergency braking. Automatic emergency braking has slowly made its way into some newer model cars, and while its inclusion has been shown to help reduce accidents, it still has some limitations. As it currently sits, it only works for forward braking, and doesn’t prevent cross traffic crashes. This means that the driver still needs to be aware, but the system helps to increase reaction times for that person that slams on their brakes in front of you.
Unfortunately due to the safety considerations that go into a system like this, it is not available in an aftermarket kit. If you are in the 42% of people who are interested in a feature like this, it’s one tech option you’ll need to pay for up front.
HANDS-FREE AND CONNECTIVITY TECHNOLOGIES
Probably one of the most well known and most used vehicle technology, this category includes things like voice control, Bluetooth, GPS/navigation and Wi-Fi. In my opinion, there is no reason to not be using hands-free technology when driving – yes, I’m talking to all of you that still hold your cell phone while driving. Although hands-free technology doesn’t mean that you have more hands to play on your phone – it’s to help increase your focus on driving. CARFAX’s study found that. According to the NHTSA, any type of phone use causes 4 times the number of crashes over people that don’t use their phones in the car.
If your current vehicle doesn’t have Bluetooth already installed, you can buy any number of aftermarket Bluetooth kits that are either universal or specifically made for your model car. This is the least expensive technology to add on this list – starting around $40 for a decent AUX input adapter that allows your phone calls to be played through your speakers. If you are willing to pay for it, you can also pay an additional fee to turn your smartphone into a mobile hot spot and give yourself Wi-Fi for long road trips without adding it as an option on the front end.
Bonus: Once you have your Bluetooth hooked up, you can turn on voice directions on your preferred map app and not need to look at your phone to figure out where you need to turn.
SECURITY AND EMERGENCY FEATURES
Technology like roadside assistance and stolen vehicle tracking is also a common technology found in newer model cars, but most require a subscription. Roadside assistance technology may include things like automatic crash alerts, quick call emergency services, lock-out services, fuel delivery and more.
Because these features have been around for quite some time, you can get aftermarket hardware for between $30 and $140 depending on the brand with an $8-$20 per month subscription.
Bonus: Because these types of systems are incorporated into your vehicle, many of them include stolen vehicle tracking making it faster to find your car if it is stolen.
Vehicle technology is rapidly advancing and in some cases, approaching autonomous driving. But it’s important to remember, these high-tech safety features are still not a substitution for driver awareness. If and when self-driving cars become a thing, it will still be a long time before world-wide adoption catches on. Get the technology that suits you and stay safe on the roads.