Nobody likes a nervous backseat driver, but a little electronic assistance to help drivers stay focused can be a good thing. That’s the idea behind Safe Drive Systems, which can update any vehicle with forward-collision and lane-departure warnings.
Like the Mobileye system we sampled last year, Safe Drive provides a visual and audible warning when a driver is following the car ahead too closely or strays from the lane. The system combines a small radar unit mounted behind the front bumper to monitor vehicles ahead, with a camera tucked behind the rearview mirror that reads lane markings. A small dashtop display turns from green to amber to red as the gap closes between a vehicle ahead, and it indicates whether the car is wandering off to the left or right side of its lane.
Drivers can adjust the volume of the audible warning, which is canceled at speeds below 15 mph in an effort to reduce rising blood pressure in city traffic. Lane departure works at speeds above 37 mph.
Safe Drive Systems says using radar for forward-collision warning is more reliable than a camera-based system, because the signal is not affected by fog or bad weather. It also claims that the system can detect an obstacle as small as a bicycle, in any weather or lighting condition, up to 460 feet ahead, and that the information updates 20 times per second. We haven’t tested the system, but during our brief demo drive on a clear day, it seemed to work as advertised in moderate highway traffic.
Safe Drive Systems are available now through the company website. The Premier System includes forward-collision warning only and retails for $1,100. Premier Plus adds lane-departure warning and costs $1,700. Both systems include mobile installation at your home or office, and they throw in a three-year warranty covering parts and labor. The company will also switch the system from one car to another during those three years if you trade vehicles.
As active safety systems become increasingly common, car owners may be tempted to buy a new car to get that added protection. But aftermarket solutions such as this one can allow older cars to be upgraded for far less money than buying an all-new car. Of course, the trade-off is that these systems aren’t cheap, nor are they fully integrated to enable automatic braking. And the car may not be up to the latest standards for crash protection.