Written by Josephine Lategan
You probably know your car like you know the backroads to your home.
Did you know that there is a bunch of features doing strange and fantastic work for you? They might be right in front of you or out of sight, high-tech or low-tech, automatic or elective, but they all make the driving experience better.
Check how many of these your vehicle has and how many of them you use. Like a cool keyboard shortcut, you might discover new and simpler ways of solving everyday driving and road safety problems.
1. PROBLEM: Invisibly slippery roads
SOLUTION: Stability control. Whether it’s a thin layer of frost or an unseen patch of oil that the rain just lifted, the surface of a tar road can be invisibly slippery. When the light on the dashboard of the car with ribbon-like tyre tracks is on, it means the car is compensating for dangers it is sensing on the road. “My Car Does What?” explains that the sensors register if the vehicle is turning too far – and may spin out – or not turning far enough – and may run off the road. The breaks will automatically engage on one or more of the wheels to compensate and control the turn.
2. PROBLEM: Falling asleep at the wheel (or becoming less alert on the road when you’re tired)
SOLUTION: Drowsiness detector. Ever been tired at the wheel and kind of drifted out of your lane? That can be fatal. RD.com notes cars can have detection systems to watch if the car is keeping in its lane. Coupled with how long the journey has been, it can alert you that you are too sleepy to drive safely. Look out for a coffee cup icon on the dashboard. If you have it, and it’s illuminated, and go get one (or take a nap in a well-lit, well known and safe 24-hour fuel stop on long drives). “Manufacturers are also working on sensors that monitor a driver’s heart rate and breathing,” RD.com highlights, “and even track your posture and eye movements.”
3. PROBLEM: Leg aches on long drives
SOLUTION: Adaptive cruise control. In the past, cruise control didn’t really put you in control, it just let you lift your foot when you were flying along (sometimes to your detriment). You’d reach the speed you want to cruise at, hit a button, and the car would lock it in. Rd.com explains that “new systems use lasers, radar, and/or cameras to adjust your driving speed so it matches the car in front of you”. Responsive cruise control like this is more effective than its earlier incarnation when it comes to dealing with non-immediate overtaking or surprises on the open road.
4. PROBLEM: Thin tyres
SOLUTION: Tyre Wear Indicator (TWI). Not only is driving with too-thin tyre tread illegal, but it’s also highly dangerous. If a tyre bursts while you’re driving you can completely lose control of the car. A tyre wear indicator is a low-tech marker on the tyre itself that warns you of wear and tear. “Each tyre consists of TWI bars in the main grooves,” Automen.in explains, “and TWI indicators in the shoulder region at 6 places around the tyre circumference. Types of marks are dependent on different companies.” If you can’t see them, go see your nearest reputable tyre dealer to check them! Slowly and thoroughly.
5. PROBLEM: Tyres losing pressure without sight
SOLUTION: You tyre tread might be right, but there could be other issues with your tyre that could cause it to let you down, with a flat, a blowout or compromise the car’s suspension and road handling abilities. A tyre pressure monitor, usually an LED light of a tyre with an exclamation point on the dashboard, notices changes in tyre pressure and flashes a dashboard light to alert you. Investigate immediately and take advantage of the technology for your own safety!
Noticed a car safety feature that you love? Had an experience where a weird feature protected you? Share your story of appreciation or alarm on our Facebook page to encourage others to discover these features in their cars as well and arrive alive.
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