Website Explains Advanced Safety Features in New Cars

Self-driving cars for sale are still years away, but many new vehicles now come pretty close. They're loaded with the latest technologies, but many drivers don't use the advanced safety features.

Now a new educational campaign is trying to help them understand how the systems work.

Sue Chrysler, a senior research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, studies all the latest car safety features. Yes, that's really her name.

"And I am not touching the brakes right now, and the car slowed down by itself," she said, demonstrating safety features on a College Station test track.

"My steering wheel is giving me a little bit of vibration as a warning," she said.

Chrysler engages everything from blind spot monitors to adaptive cruise controls and lane departure warning systems during her test run.

"It's actually steering me back. I did not do that, it got me back into the lane," she said.

She and other researchers find many drivers are often intimidated by the latest technologies.

"In some cases, they didn't even know they had them on their car until some crisis situation, and all of a sudden all the bells and whistles started beeping at them," Chrysler said.

Carolyn Nussbaum-Coggan, a mother of three from Plano, couldn't be happier with her new car. When she was rear-ended just months after getting it, her new Volvo prevented even further damage.

"My car jolted forward. Meanwhile, it was making sure that it wasn't pushing me into traffic," she said. "So all this stuff went off. I didn't have to do anything, it just automatically did it."

The National Safety Council offers a website called "MyCarDoesWhat.org." The site is loaded with videos and animations explaining nearly 30 of the latest safety features now available on many cars.

Chrysler helped develop the website.

"We felt that these safety features really do have the potential to prevent a lot of crashes and we'd like people to be using them, but it's important that people understand how to use them," she said.

But experts caution even the most advanced features are no substitute for attentive drivers.

"You can't rely on a car to do your thinking for you," Chrysler said.

"It's like having a passenger in the car, this little extra set of eyes, that says, 'Oh, look out, they're braking ahead of you,'" she added.

Twenty carmakers have now agreed to make automatic emergency braking systems a standard feature on virtually all new cars by September 2022.

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