Everything you need to know about automated car features and ADAS

5 minutes

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From automatic parking to cruise control and autonomous emergency breaking (AEB), the world of today’s safety features (and their acronyms) can be utterly confusing.

But if you’re looking to buy a car, it’s important to understand its features and what that means for you… because sometimes it’s worth paying a bit extra for them. So, here's a guide to some of the most common advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to get you started. If this is your thing, we’ve got even more tips for you on what to look for when buying a car.
  • Research shows 75% of all collisions occur at speeds less than 25mph in urban environments 
  • AEB could save an estimated 1,100 lives in the UK over the next ten years
  • Automated parking does the steering for you

What are advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)?

ADAS refers to a set of safety features you’ll find in your car that help drivers by automating certain driving functions. With almost all accidents caused by human error, their job is to makes your life easier and our roads safer.

That said, even with these systems in place, you’ll still need to pay close attention to the road, continue making decisions and do most of the driving for yourself.

What is autonomous emergency braking (AEB)?

Autonomous emergency braking is an important piece of kit in today’s cars. It’s the biggest breakthrough in safety technology since the seat belt, according to Thatcham! AEB will automatically brake in the event of an impending forward collision if you fail to respond quickly. Some of these systems tell you to take action to avoid a crash. If your response isn’t enough to avoid the crash, AEB will automatically apply the brakes. 


How does AEB work?

AEB systems use a range of sensors on your vehicle - usually behind the bumper or grille, cameras mounted behind the windscreen, or a combination of the two. The sensors scan the road ahead for any changes in the conditions, such as stationary or moving objects. If an obstruction is detected and you don’t change your course, the system will intervene and brake to stop you from hitting it.


What’s the best AEB system?

At the moment, AEB can’t be fitted after you’ve bought a car, so it’s something to consider if you’re looking to purchase. If the car you’re thinking of buying offers AEB as an option, it’s usually part of a safety pack that comes with other ADAS features.

However, AEB systems differ between manufacturers and models, so do your research to find out which is best for you. Euro NCAP is testing AEB systems as part of new safety ratings. NCAP now gives two safety ratings for vehicles that have optional safety technology such as AEB. This means you can see the difference in the performance of a car with or without AEB. 

But remember, although these systems are tested in an environment as close to the real world as possible, there’ll always be factors that affect the performance of AEB.


Which cars have AEB?

Not sure if your car or one you’re looking to buy has AEB? Check out some of the pages linked below to see for yourself:

·  Audi
·  BMW
·  Citroen
·  Ford
·  Honda
·  Jaguar
·  Kia
·  Mazda
·  Mercedes
·  Mini
·  Peugeot
·  Porsche
·  Skoda
·  Smart
·  Suzuki
·  Toyota
·  Vauxhall
·  Volkswagen
·  Volvo


What’s cruise control?

Cruise control is quite straightforward and does what it says on the tin; it automatically controls the speed of your car. It’s a brilliant tool to help stop accidental speeding on long, dull motorways as you can set your speed to not exceed 70 mph.


Bonus! Cruise control can make your fuel go further by helping you to keep a consistent speed, only accelerating and decelerating when necessary.

Most of today’s cars have cruise control, but some have an even more advanced system – adaptive cruise control (ACC). This technology does everything your standard cruise control does, but also maintains a safe distance between you and the car in front. If the car in front slows down, your ACC will also slow your car down… it’s like having a second pair of eyes on the road!


How does cruise control work?

Cruise control is an electronic system that’s fixed to your car's accelerator. It’s activated through a button, usually found on your steering wheel. Check your car’s manual for more info… but remember, you’ll need to get yourself to the speed you want first!


What’s lane departure warning (LDW)?

Lane departure warning lets you know if the car feels you’re about to unintentionally drift out of a lane. It’s designed to help prevent accidents from drifting drivers – if it’s down to tiredness or distractions. In some cars, the steering wheel will vibrate to warn you… a bit like a video game controller. Other systems will beep.

Some cars have a more advanced version of LDW called lane keeping assist. This technology will gently steer you back to your lane if it detects drifting and you don’t respond in time. We know what you’re thinking, “what if I want to change lanes?!” Well don’t worry, you can override your lane keeping assist any time simply by using your indicators!

LDW visually monitors the left and right sides of the car to look for risks. However, the systems only work if road markings are clearly visible – so you’ll need to pay close attention when you’re driving on roads that need a bit of love.


What’s automatic parking

Automatic parking is a handy driver aid, helping you take care of the steering and braking so you can park easily… like having a friend in the car helping you avoid any embarrassing parallel parking fails!

Automatic braking can help prevent bumps and scratches during parking mishaps, which could otherwise raise your insurance premium if there was a claim made against you. It can also give you a ton of confidence when it comes to parking – whether you’re a new driver or just never quite got the hang of it.  


How does automatic parking work

Automatic parking uses sensors to judge the parking space and help guide you in. To use it, you’ll need to put your car in reverse and keep your foot on the accelerator. 

It may feel odd at first, but you’ll need to keep your hands off the steering wheel and let the car do the work for you. To take back control, you can turn the steering wheel, break or release the accelerator.


How do I make sure my ADAS systems are well maintained?

Because AEB and ADAS systems rely on a combination of cameras and sensors, if one gets knocked out of place it could impact how well your system functions. It could be the difference between your car’s system being able to avoid an accident or not. So, make sure you:

  • Keep your washer fluid topped up so you can clear your windscreen and give the camera a clear view of the road. 
  • Keep the front grille and parking sensors clear of dirt and debris so all the systems can function properly.
  • Check for any damage or knocks to the sensors on your car and head to a garage if needed.
  • Always have your vehicle recalibrated following a windscreen replacement or damage repair. We cover recalibration as standard on our comprehensive policy. Check out our tips for looking after your windscreen

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