— Advanced cameras:
Automotive cameras are showing up on more cars ahead of a government requirement to install backup cameras, which is expected by 2015. But with cameras getting smaller and cheaper, automakers aren't just putting them on the back of the car anymore. Honda has side cameras that come on automatically when a turn signal is employed, so drivers can spot obstacles while turning. Nissan's around-view monitor blends images from four cameras tucked in the mirrors and elsewhere around the car into a composite, bird's-eye view to help the driver back out of a parking spot. The system is available on a high-end Rogue, which costs $6,000 more than the base model. Volvo and Subaru have front-mounted cameras that can apply brakes to avoid hitting pedestrians.
According to Mobileye, an Israeli maker of automotive cameras, car companies are adding cameras that can read wrong-way road signs, detect large animals such as deer, and even note the colors of traffic lights. All that technology is coming by 2015. The next wave? Nissan and TRW are working on a system to automatically steer the car away from an obstacle. Expect that by 2016.
— Lane Centering:
A camera can follow the road and gently nudge a car — using the brakes — to stay in the center of a lane. These systems — dubbed Lane Keep Assist — are available on most Mercedes-Benz vehicles as well as the Ford Fusion, Ford Explorer, Toyota Prius, Lexus GS and Lincoln MKZ. They aren't cheap. A combined lane-keeping and lane-centering system is a $1,200 option on the Fusion SE. Prius owners must spend $4,320 to get the system, packaged with cruise control and an entertainment system. Lane-centering is an outgrowth of lane-keeping systems, which first appeared on commercial trucks a decade ago. Those systems — now offered by Honda, Buick, Cadillac, Nissan and other brands — sound a beep or vibrate the driver's seat if a camera senses that a car is swerving out of its lane.