Illustration: Chris Philpot

In recent years, automakers have made significant progress in developing active safety systems that can mitigate and even prevent collisions. They’ve also rolled out several new “driver assistance” features, which can make driving easier and more convenient. As a result, consumers now have a long and sometimes confusing list of safety and convenience features to choose from when buying a new car.

To simplify things a bit, here’s a look at the three safety systems we most enthusiastically recommend—all of which are known to reduce collisions in real-world driving—and two convenience features that are becoming common on new cars.

Pedestrian detection
Some AEB systems can detect pedestrians and/or cyclists and activate the brakes as necessary to reduce the risk of injury. Pedestrian deaths have been on the rise, making this an increasingly vital feature.
Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
Like an attentive co-pilot, AEB watches for potential collisions with vehicles ahead and provides a warning if you get too close. If you don’t respond, the system automatically applies the brakes to avoid or reduce the severity of an impact.
Blind Spot Warning (BSW)
The BSW system watches for cars in adjacent lanes and alerts you to their presence, usually with a warning light on a side mirror. Most systems also have an audible alert if you signal a turn or lane change while your blind spot is occupied.
Features That Make Driving Easier

Adaptive cruise control (ACC)

ACC uses braking and acceleration to control speed and maintain a set distance from vehicles ahead. Most versions work in stop-and-go traffic, bringing the car to a full stop and resuming once traffic starts to move.

Lane keeping assistance (LKA)

As the name implies, this feature provides steering assistance in the form of small adjustments to help keep a vehicle within its driving lane. But it still requires you to continue to pay close attention to the road.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the April 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. For more information, visit our 2021 Autos Spotlight page.