Demystifying Safety Features in Cars… By Auto Maker

Volvo Xc 40 Compact Luxury Suv
Blind spot monitors on the Volvo XC40 are large and easy to see. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Safety features are designed to help you drive better. If they don’t drive you nuts.

They beep. They buzz. They light up and flash. They take some of the weight off the driver when it comes to safety features in cars and sometimes they jump right in and take the wheel. Advanced safety technologies are more and more common, many of them as standard equipment on new cars.

But auto makers can give them fancy-schmancy names that can be confusing. How do you know what you’re getting? Even the list of standard and advanced safety features can confound. So, we decide to break it down for you so you (and we, because, hey, there is a lot) know what they mean. Then, read on for a brand-by-brand look at what is offer in each new car.

Basic Safety Features

These are included in most new vehicles now:

Traction control limits wheel spin on slippery surfaces when driving in a straight line.

Vehicle stability control helps maintain control when turning on slippery surfaces.

A rear-view supplements your vision when in reverse. All vehicles built from May 2018 on must, by-law, have a back-up camera.

A tire pressure monitoring system alerts you when it senses low pressure in one of your tires.

Downhill Assist Control helps the vehicle maintain stability on steep downgrades at low speeds by controlling the speed and preventing the brakes from locking.

The hill start assist helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backward when starting off on an incline.

ABS helps prevent brakes from locking up by “pulsing” brake pressure to each wheel to help you stay in control in emergency braking situations.

Advanced Safety Features in Cars

The blind spot monitor indicates on your side-view mirrors with a light and/or sound when there is a vehicle in your blind spot and you’ve put your turn signal on.

The rear cross-traffic alert alerts you of rear cross-traffic and helps to avoid collisions when backing up.

Brake Assist is designed to detect sudden or “panic” braking and then add the full pressure needed to help prevent a collision.

A parking assist system uses sensors mounted around the vehicle to detect obstacles close by and alerts you with an audible signal.

Whatever the manufacturer is calling it, this means the vehicle is measuring the distance from the vehicle ahead and controls acceleration and deceleration to automatically maintain a suitable following distance.

Collision mitigation means that radar is detecting possible pedestrians, cyclists, and structures and stopped or slowing vehicles ahead and will audibly warn you and ultimately brake for you automatically. This system’s functionality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Lane departure and lane-keep assist will alert you if you start to drift out of your lane when there are clear lane markings, road edges or curbs.

The lane keep assist or steering assist function will also provide small corrective steering inputs if Lane Keep Assist or Steering Assist

Automatic high beams can switch between high and low beams for you depending on oncoming and preceding cars’ lights and depending on the circumstances.

When coupled with Anti-lock brakes, the Electronic Brake Distribution system helps keep the vehicle more stable and balanced when braking.

When your vehicle passes a speed limit sign, a camera sees it and displays the speed limit on your dash screen and/or head-up display.

This feature turns your rearview mirror into a camera screen, giving you a vivid, wide-angle view, day or night.

At night, your headlights move in the direction that you’re turning by up to 15 degrees.

So, what brands are incorporating these features and what do they call them?

Toyota Rav4 Small Suv Outdoor Lover'S Dream Suv



Toyota includes the Star Safety System as standard equipment in their vehicles. This includes:

  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Brake Assist
  • Traction control
  • Stability control
  • Electronic Brake Distribution


Toyota Safety Sense is standard on almost all Toyota models and trims and includes:

  • Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection
  • Lane departure alert
  • Automatic high beams
  • Lane trace assist
  • Dynamic radar cruise control

Toyota also has advanced or upgraded versions of this called TSSC (for compact cars) and TSSP (for larger SUVs).

Further Reading: Why we love the Toyota Avalon Hybrid


The impressively adventurous side profile of the Honda Passport. Photo: Connie Peters


All Honda vehicles have the following safety features:

  • Stability control
  • Traction control
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Electronic Brake Distribution
  • Brake Assist

Not all vehicles in the Honda lineup include all of Honda Sensing safety features, but many do include some or all of them.


  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Collision Mitigation Braking System
  • Cross-traffic warning
  • Sign recognition

A Honda safety feature not available on any other brand that we know of (and we love it!) is LaneWatch.

When your right turn signal is on, the camera on the passenger side mirror will turn on and display live video of the right side of the car on your display touch-screen. It has nearly four times more visibility than the average passenger-side mirror.

2020 Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback we test drove and muddied. ?Scotty Reiss

Subaru EyeSight

Designed to work like the human eye, the Subaru system combines dual color cameras that converge on objects like the road ahead to detect things the way you would. The system includes:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane keep assist
  • Pre-collision braking
  • Pre-collision throttle management, which manages speed to reduce impact

A Girls Guide To Cars | Demystifying Safety Features In Cars... By Auto Maker - The Nissan Altima Front EndNISSAN

Nissan Intelligent Safety Shield technologies on most Nissan models include some or all:

  • Emergency brake system (collision mitigation) with pedestrian detection
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Intelligent rearview mirror
  • Multiple-angle backup camera
  • Intelligent (adaptive) cruise control
  • Tire pressure monitoring system (standard on all Nissan models)
  • Reverse automatic braking
  • Traction control
  • Stability control
  • Anti-lock brakes and brake force distribution
  • Brake assist


This system monitors your steering patterns. Should the system detect any unusual steering activity (indicating driver fatigue), it will alert you audibly with a chime, and visually by lighting a coffee cup icon on your display, letting you know it may be time for a break.


  • Adaptive speed control
  • Lane keep and lane departure assist
  • Brake assist

Nissan ProPilot Assist is available on Rogue, Rogue Sport, Leaf and Ultima models.

Further Reading:  The Nissan Altima AWD test drive

Terrain Sideview

Classic lines of the GMC Terrain. ?: Connie Peters


GMC doesn’t put a packaged name on their safety features but you can see exactly which features are included in each vehicle model and trim here for GMC and here for Chevrolet.

GMC offers these features in many of their model lineups:

  • High Definition rear vision (backup) camera
  • Rear Camera vision on the rearview mirror
  • Forward collision alert and emergency braking including pedestrian detection
  • Front and rear park assist
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Lane departure warning
  • Safety alert seat (seat vibrates under your legs when trying to alert you versus audible alerts)
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Rear Camera mirror
  • Rear seat occupant alert

Teen Driver is available on select Chevrolet and GMC Vehicles as well:

Teen Driver offers a number of safety functionalities:

  • They’ll have ot buckle their seat belt before they can shift out of Park
  • Muting audio until front-seat occupants are buckled
  • Automatically turning on available active safety technologies
  • The in-vehicle report card shows information about your teen’s driving so you can identify potential problem areas and coach your new driver on improvements
  • Setting speed warnings for them while they drive



The Mazda i-Activesense group of technologies includes:

  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Adaptive front lighting
  • Lane departure alert
  • Automatic high beams
  • Radar (adaptive) cruise control
  • Emergency braking

Not all features are available on all new Mazda models, so be sure to ask your dealer or do your research while you test drive to see what features are available in the model you’re considering.

San Francisco Corsair

Corsair is perfect for cosmopolitan living. ?: Connie Peters


Ford calls their two groups of safety features Ford Co-Pilot360 and Safe & Smart. Both packages come with various advanced safety features you’ll want:

Safe & Smart

Safe & Smart is a group of standard safety features with Ford:

  • Front Rain-Sensing Wipers
  • Auto High Beam Headlamps
  • BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) With Cross-Traffic Alert10
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning with Brake Support
  • Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror

Available in 2019 Mustang, Escape, and Explorer. Also available in 2018 Mustang, Escape, Edge.

Co-Pilot360 is an advanced suite of standard Driver Assist Technologies:

  • Auto High Beam Headlamps
  • BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) With Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Rearview camera

Co-Pilot360 Assist Plus includes all of the above features plus:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go
  • Evasive Steering Assist
  • Lane Centering
  • Voice-activated Navigation System
  • Emergency braking
  • Auto parallel parking

Available in select 2019 Fusion, Edge and Ranger and many Lincoln models.

Further Reading: All New 2020 Lincoln Corsair Drive

Kia Soul Gt


Kia doesn’t give a packaged name to its advanced safety features but has the following features available on some or all of their vehicle lineup:

  • Backup Camera
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Parking sensors
  • Forward collision warning and brake assist
  • Blind-spot detection and warning
  • Lane departure warning + lane-keeping assist
  • Driver attention warning
  • Hill-start assist
  • Tire pressure monitoring
  • Stability control
  • Downhill brake control
Hyundai Palisade 3 Row Suv

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade has room for 8, so you might need the roof rack and 5,000 lbs of tow capacity. Photo: Scotty Reiss


Hyundai calls its safety suite SmartSense. It’s a group of technologies not available on all models, but plenty of them.


  • Forward collision assist
  • Blindspot detection
  • Driver attention warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Automatic high beams
  • Rear seat occupant alert
  • Smart parallel parking assist
  • Adaptive cruise control

Safe Exit Alert

This safety feature, which we’ve only seen on Hyundai, is for when you’re parallel parked and the vehicle detects an approaching vehicle from behind, it will not allow your child to exit the back seats, and even override the child safety lock feature.

A Girls Guide To Cars | Demystifying Safety Features In Cars... By Auto Maker - 2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland 07 19.02.54


FCA doesn’t give a packaged name to its advanced safety features but has the following features available on some or all of their vehicle lineup:

  • Forward Collision brake warning with Active Braking
  • Lane Departure and Lane Keep Assist
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Start-Stop (on specific models)
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic warning
  • Parallel and perpendicular parking assist



Most BMW models have all basic safety features, some models and trims include advanced features such is:

  • Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go
  • Steering and lane control assistant
  • Lane-keeping assistant
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Change Warning

BMW Driving Assistant includes:

  • Approach control warning with pedestrian detection and warning with light city braking function
  • Speed Limit Info including No-overtaking indicator and Lane Departure Warning
  • Rear Crossing traffic warning
  • Lane Change Warning
  • Rear collision prevention.
  • At speeds of over 70 km/h, Lane Departure Warning recognizes lane markings and draws the driver’s attention to an unintentional lane change by means of vibrations in the steering wheel.
  • Emergency braking

BMW Active Protection includes:

Active Protection warns the driver if it detects signs of tiredness, safety belts are pretensioned in critical situations, electric seats are returned to upright positions and the windows and sliding roof are closed. After an accident occurs, the brakes are automatically applied until the car reaches a standstill.


Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive includes a suite of features including:

  • Lane-keeping assist
  • Active blind-spot monitoring
  • Pre-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection
  • “PRESAFE”: This system can detect when a collision is about to occur based on conditions such as extreme skidding and braces the car for impact. It can tighten the seat belts, adjust the front head restraints, closes the windows and sunroof, and more. All of this allows for the most effective results from the vehicle’s restraint systems.
  • Active Brake Assist: Emergency braking
  • ATTENTION ASSIST: This system tracks more than 70 parameters in the first few minutes that a driver hits the road, and it senses different factors as your drive goes on to determine driver fatigue, at which point ATTENTION ASSIST alerts you and encourages you to stop for a break


Intellisafe is standard on all new Volvo Cars and includes:

  • Oncoming lane mitigation
  • Run off-road mitigation
  • Lane-keeping Aid
  • Driver alert control
  • Road-sign assist
  • Adaptive cruise control

Intelisafe Surround is the next level up and includes:

  • Blindspot information with steering assist
  • Cross-traffic alert with auto brake
  • Rear collision warning
A Girls Guide To Cars | Demystifying Safety Features In Cars... By Auto Maker - Vw Atlas Cross Sport Side View

A side view of the VW Atlas Cross Sport. ? Scotty Reiss

Volkswagen + Audi

Volkswagen doesn’t bundle their advanced safety features by name, but some or all VW’s have these features available:

  • Adaptive cruise control with start/stop
  • Front autonomous emergency braking
  • Lane assist
  • Pedestrian detection

Audi offers:

  • Audi pre sense® (forward collision detection)
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Traffic jam assist
  • Night vision assistant, which uses thermal technology to detect pedestrians at night

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. ?: Erica Mueller


Mitsubishi offers advanced safety features such as:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Blindspot warning
  • Lane change assist
  • cross-traffic alert
  • Forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection,
  • Lane departure warning
  • Automatic high beam
Interior Cabin Tesla Model X

The spacey interior of the Tesla Model X. ?: Connie Peters


Tesla made it well know they offer ‘Autopilot’ mode. But what does this even mean? It’s really just a set of advanced safety features offered by other vehicle brands (as listed above) as well.

  • Cruise follow distance settings (1-3) on adaptive cruise control
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Lane departure avoidance
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Forward ‘obstacle-aware’ acceleration
  • Side collision warning
  • Auto high beams

Part of what Autopilot means is future capability, with an emphasis on FUTURE. Tesla allows for future software upgrades and existing hardware that may be able to allow for completely autonomous driving including

  • 8 outward cameras around the vehicle
  • To make sense of all of the data, an onboard computer with over 40 times the computing power of the previous generation runs the new Tesla-developed neural net for vision, sonar and radar processing software. Together, this system provides a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously, and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses.
  • Navigation
  • Auto-steer
  • Summon (your vehicle may come get you in a parking lot)
  • Full self-driving capability

So there you have it. All of the current standard and advanced safety (and even future) features. So now you know what’s beeping at you and why.

A Girls Guide To Cars | Demystifying Safety Features In Cars... By Auto Maker - Safetyfeatures

Connie Peters is a mother of 3 girls in suburban Vancouver, Canada and has been an online entrepreneur since... More about Connie Peters