The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

July 5, 2013

5 new features that could be on your next car

— DETROIT (AP) — Cameras that check around the car for pedestrians. Radar that stops you from drifting out of your lane. An engine able to turn off automatically at traffic lights to conserve fuel.

Technology that saves lives — and fuel — is getting better and cheaper. That means it's no longer confined to luxury brands like Mercedes and Volvo. It's showing up in mainstream vehicles like the Nissan Rogue and Ford Fusion.

"What we see today as slightly elitist technology is changing very, very fast," said Steven Lunn, chief operating officer for TRW Automotive, which supplies electronics and other parts to carmakers.

TRW says its newest radar is a quarter of the price of the model it sold 10 years ago. Its cameras are smaller and cheaper, too, making it easier to put multiple ones on each car.

High-tech options can still cost a few thousand dollars more, but those costs will come down as technology improves and automakers add them to more and more vehicles.

Here are some up-and-coming features that drivers can expect on their next cars:

— Collision warning with automatic braking:

New cars have radar and camera systems that warn you, with beeping sounds, of a possible front-end crash. Some even stop the vehicle, or at least slow it enough to make a crash less severe. More sophisticated systems apply the brakes if a car veers off the road and heads toward a moving or fixed object. The systems are the outgrowth of adaptive cruise control, which came out 15 years ago and helps keep cars a safe distance from vehicles in front of them.

Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Infiniti, Volvo and other brands offer automatic braking to avoid a collision; more automakers will follow soon. The systems seem to be working. David Zuby, the chief research officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said collision warning systems alone reduced crashes by 7 percent in a study of insurance claims for several thousand Mercedes vehicles with the technologies. Adding automatic braking doubled that benefit.

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