6 safety features in cars that help you drive

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While "autonomous driving" — you know, driving by robots — is getting all of the attention when it comes to safety features in cars, there are plenty of other features that both make it easier to drive and keep you and your passengers safe.Not every new car comes with these features as standard, but if you’re buying, it may be worth choosing these optional safety upgrades instead of, say, the upgraded entertainment system.

Tire pressure monitoring

If your tire pressure is too low, your tires may overheat and start to separate, which would lead to a nasty accident. Tire pressure monitoring systems regularly measure tire pressure and warn you either audibly or via a dashboard light if your tire pressure drops below a certain level. There are two types of pressure monitoring systems: direct tire pressure monitoring and indirect. While indirect monitoring is cheaper, it’s not as accurate as direct monitoring. Both are also available as aftermarket solutions.

Adaptive headlights

You’re going around a curve late at night — tell me, can you really see what’s coming up beyond the curve? With adaptive headlights, you actually can. Adaptive headlights can actually redirect their beams to the direction that your car is traveling. While adaptive headlights don’t replace safe driving, they can make it easier for attentive drivers to see people, animals, and other cars around curves.

Occupant classification systems

Airbags were a pretty good invention. The basic idea is that if you’re in an accident, airbags automatically fill nitrogen gas to cushion your body. But not all human bodies are the same, and airbags are notoriously dangerous for infants, children, and adults with short statures. Occupant Classification Systems (OCS) work by putting a pressure sensor underneath the seats. The pressure sensor can weigh the passenger and use that information to turn on or off the passenger airbags. It can also sense how they’re positioned on the seat and whether or not they’re wearing a seatbelt. Your car’s OCS may also be accompanied by a dual-stage airbag, which can also help reduce injuries to young passengers. Most cars built after 2006 have an OSC as a standard feature.

Parking sensor / blind spot monitor

Nine times out of ten, parking goes smoothly. But every once in a while, something gets in your way. It might be an orange cone or a cart at the grocery store. Even the smallest thing can turn parking from an everyday occurrence to the most stressful moment in your life. Parking sensors are simple proximity sensors designed to help you avoid hitting objects while parking. Parking sensors are similar to blind spot monitors, which can also help you back out of parking spaces. If you’re a frequent visitor of big, busy parking lots, parking sensors and blind monitors are two features you definitely need.

Rearview cameras

If you’ve seen a car commercial in the last few years, you’ve probably seen someone use a rearview camera. The idea is simple: when you back up your car, your dashboard screen displays a live view of what’s behind you. It’s better than looking over your shoulder because you can see things you otherwise wouldn’t — for example, a child riding a tricycle, or a small animal. If you have children who love to play in the driveway, you need a car with a rearview camera.

Many new cars come with these features as standard, but even if you’re not buying a new car, you may be able to make your old car safer through aftermarket upgrades. And if you’re buying and these features don’t come standard, it may be worth paying for the upgrade. At the end of the day, a few hundred dollars now is better than a few thousand dollars or an accident in the future.

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