A guide to driving safety gadgets

A key problem lies in the fast development of the technology, plus the fact different manufacturers label their own systems by different acronyms than others.

Deciphering all the different terminologies and from each manufacturer can get confusing but we can help.

Here we’ve compiled many of the most common and important new car safety gadget terms used today. We’ll summarise just what exactly they mean and what the technology does to help and protect you when driving.

Electronic Stability Control/Electronic Stability Programme (ESC/ESP)

Electronic Stability is the technology that prevents a vehicle rolling in corners, and is particularly useful on tall vehicles including MPVs and SUVs.

Today it is not possible to receive a top Euro NCAP safety rating without ESC or one of its many variations.

Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)

ABS is highly common for cars in the UK today. What this does is prevent the wheels locking during heavy braking, reducing braking distances. This is particularly useful in poor weather to prevent skidding and gives the driver more control over the car in an emergency stop.

Brake assist

Sometimes known as ‘emergency brake assist’, this technology assists the driver in applying more pressure to the brakes if they are ‘slammed on’ in case of an emergency.

Electric Brake-force Distribution (EBD)

Yet another brake-related safety feature, EBD balances the application of the brakes between front and rear wheels. This means the car remains more stable and will be easier to control.

Cruise control

Cruise control is a regular feature on more upmarket cars and higher trim levels for budget models. Ideal for motorway driving, cruise control keeps the car at a steady speed as specified by the driver.

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)

Adaptive Cruise Control is a more advanced version of the cruise control technology mentioned just above.

Those cars with ACC will maintain a steady pace, but is also capable of keeping a safe distance from the car in front by calculating speed and distance with radar sensors. Using data gleamed from these calucations the ACC will adapt the speed of the car.

Blind Spot Detection system

The Blind Spot Detection system alerts the driver if they indicate to turn and there is something detected in the vehicle’s blind spot. This can take the form of a noise, a vibrating steering wheel or a flashing light.

Cars such as the Ford C-Max and Ford Galaxy MPVs are some of the most common to feature the system built into their wing mirrors.

Land Departure Warning

The Lane Departure Warning system can do a number of things. Firstly, it will cause the steering wheel to vibrate or make a loud noise to you the driver if it detects you have lost concentration and are drifting out of the lane.

Secondly, it can alert the driver if there is traffic in other lines and the indicator is in use. More advanced versions of this gadget can even automatically slow the car down if necessary.

Parking Sensors

Highly common these days on higher trim level family and luxury cars, this feature is made up of a series of sensors and possibly a camera as well. They can placed on the rear or even the front of the car (more commonly the rear at least).

They work by calculating the distance of other objects in proximity to the car’s rear (or front) and gives the driver a signal (usually a beeping sound) indicating how close they are to a wall etc.

Active Park Assist

Active Park Assist is currently found on particular new cars including the Ford Focus and the Kia Cee’d. This feature will automatically steer the car into a parking space, meaning the driver just has to apply the accelerator and brakes.

Traffic sign recognition

This feature found on modern family cars like the Ford Focus uses cameras to read and recognise road signals. When these are read the car can then display information to the driver via a display or an audio command.

Radar City Brake

This can be called several things depending on which manufacturer you look to. For example Ford call it the ‘Active City Stop’, Fiat call it ‘City Brake Control’ and Mazda have named it ‘Smart City Brake’.

In all cases it applies to a device onboard the car designed to automatically apply the brakes in heavy traffic situations. This feature works by using a computer and sophisticated radar sensors placed at the front of the car.

If the car is about to collide with another vehicle or large object in front because of inattention from the driver, the city brake gadget will intervene applying the brakes automatically. Usually however this feature will have little to no involvement if the driver interacts with the car, by applying the gas or brake pedals themselves or applying steering input.