For all its huffing and puffing about the autonomous revolution, the automobile industry has yet to completely take human error out of the driving equation. Every time we hear some buffoon reporting that his Tesla went rogue, our reaction is the same: it wasn't the car, it was you, bro.
That said, at some point in the near future — mostly because we refuse to put down our damn phones — vehicles are going to be better at driving than us. Until then, there are some major advancements in car safety tech on the horizon for 2017. Will they keep your punkass teenager in check on the road. Debatable. But they certainly won't hurt.
Here’s a rundown of the some vehicular wizardry comin’ down the line to
take the fun out of everything protect us all from ourselves.
First up, you have the new, novel Red Key for the Volvo S90, V90 and XC90. This secondary key system allows for you to hand the reigns to your ride over, but with some pre-programmed stipulations: when you’re not driving, you can limit the machine’s speed to 75 MPH, program the Adaptive Cruise Control to maintain a maximum distance from other vehicles, and assign the preset speed warning to 30, 45 and 55 MPH. And just in case that didn’t dampen a Friday night joyride enough, the Red Key also allows for restricting the maximum volume for the stereo and permanent activation of support systems like the Lane Keeping Aid, Forward Collision Control, Blind Spot Information System, Distance Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition and Driver Alert Control. Your teenager will hate it. You will not.
Unsurprisingly, the vehicle-safety police at Volvo have a few other tricks up its sleeve this year. The S90 and XC90 also have Large Animal Detection with Automatic Braking. In addition to being on the lookout for pedestrians and oncoming vehicles, they added in extra sensitivity in the case that Bullwinkle is meandering around the next bend. Pretty cool. Because if you have yet to collide with 1,500 pounds of Northern Exposure extras — trust me — it’s an experience you want to miss.
Then there's the 2017 Honda Civic, winner of the Kelley Blue Book Best Auto Tech Award, which has created a Lane Watch system. A small camera mounted on the passenger side mirror displays a view down the ride side of the vehicle on the infotainment screen. Coupled with full-range adaptive cruise control and automatic pre-collision braking, the system will gently nudge your car back into its place if it begins to drift.
And winner of the Kelley Blue Book Best Auto Tech Award in the luxury department, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has some dandy features not available in any other car on the road today. It’s packing seat-side bolsters that quickly inflate in the event of side impact and an Active Emergency Stop Assist that brings the car to a stop in its lane and switches on the emergency flashers if you become unresponsive behind the wheel.
Also of interest? The Pre-Safe Sound feature, designed to emit a specific sound frequency when a collision is imminent to trigger a protective reflex in your inner ear meant to minimize hearing damage. The system kicks into high gear when you're crossing intersections, utilizing evasive steering in conjunction with automatic emergency braking and active blind-spot detection to guide the car back if you attempt to change lanes with a vehicle in your blind spot. Lastly, the road sign scanner displays the current speed limit on the instrument cluster but can also automatically adjust your speed — if you (or your parents) so choose.
Then there's something that's not acutally part of the car at all: the Jaguar F-Pace’s Activity Key. The water-resistant wristband takes the place of carrying (see also: losing) keys. And it prevents you from stashing the keys in that super secret place above the tire where no thief would ever think to look.
While these features are make- and marque-unique at the moment, we’re going to see tech like forward-collision warning, backup cameras, blind-spot warning, rear-cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, gesture controls and lane-keep assist become standard — perhaps even mandatory — across the board in the coming year.
In the meantime, you can have a gander at the 38 cars that made the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety’s top picks this year. Until human error isn’t a factor — read: never — these rides are at the very least here to help prevent you (or your spawn) from being a total knucklehead.