An illustration of how rear cross traffic warning and rearview cameras work.
Illustration: John Ritter

When moving in Reverse, rear cross traffic warning (RCTW) systems give visual, audible, and/or tactile notification—such as a vibrating steering wheel or seat—of an object or vehicle that is out of rear camera range but may be moving into your path from behind or from either side. Some systems will automatically brake to avoid a crash. (See CR's Guide to Automatic Emergency Braking.)

Rear cross traffic warning (RCTW): A warning that an object or vehicle could be approaching from either side of the rear of the vehicle, out of rear camera range, while traveling in reverse.

Backup camera: Uses a rear-facing camera to present a view of the surroundings behind the vehicle.

In a recent survey, we asked CR members to rate their experiences with the advanced safety and driver-assist systems on their model-year 2015-2019 cars. Respondents answered questions about their satisfaction with the systems and told us which ones helped them avoid a crash. The survey covered about 72,000 vehicles.

Which Brands Do RCTW Best?

Most Satisfying RCTW Systems, according to CR members: Hyundai, Lincoln, Cadillac, Genesis, Jeep
One Lincoln MKT owner wrote, “It is very good at warning both of proximity of obstacles, and of approaching side traffic. I use it in conjunction with all of the mirrors.” That is the right way to use the system, as a supplement to safe driving practices, rather than replacing them. Or as a Cadillac SRX owner described it, “Dependable assistance.”

Least Satisfying RCTW: Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Audi
One Mercedes-Benz C-Class owner complained that “It too frequently sounds an audible when there are not other vehicles nearby.”

CR’s take: These systems are helpful in increasing the driver’s view into hard-to-see or obstructed areas. But drivers shouldn’t rely on just the system; they still need to turn their head, check their side mirrors, and look out windows for objects that may be out of range of the camera or sensors. Drivers have complained about occasional false alerts from the systems that warn them or brake for them. And drivers have been surprised by warning beeps when they can’t see anything, or when the car brakes unexpectedly.

Rearview Camera
Do owners like it?
Say the system helped them avoid a crash
Trust the system to work every time
Rear Cross-traffic Warning
Do owners like it?
Say the system helped them avoid a crash
Trust the system to work every time
Source: Consumer Reports' Advanced Safety Systems Survey.

Brand Names for Rear Safety Systems

AcuraRear cross traffic monitor
Alfa RomeoRear cross path detection
Alfa RomeoCross path detection
AudiRear cross traffic assist
AudiCross traffic assist rear
BMWRear cross traffic alert
BuickRear cross traffic alert
CadillacRear cross-traffic alert
ChevroletRear cross traffic alert
ChryslerRear cross path detection
FiatRear cross path detection
FordCross traffic alert
GenesisRear cross traffic collision warning
GMCRear cross-traffic alert
Honda Cross traffic monitor
HyundaiRear cross-traffic collision alert
InfinitiBackup collision intervention
JeepRear cross path detection
KiaRear cross traffic collision warning (RCCW)
LexusRear cross traffic braking system
LincolnCross traffic alert
MazdaRear cross traffic alert
Mercedes-BenzRear-cross traffic assist
MitsubishiRear cross traffic alert
NissanRear cross traffic alert
SubaruRear-cross traffic alert
ToyotaRear-cross traffic alert
VolkswagenRear traffic alert
VolvoCross traffic alert

Guide to Advanced Safety Systems

We tell you which safety systems owners like, and the brands that do them best.