The Car Safety Features You Want Right Now

    Here are features that our surveyed members say work best­—and the cars that feature them

    Person in a 2022 Lexus LS 500h with Rear Cross Traffic Alert on the screen Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports

    You’re backing out of a tricky parking spot when a beep beep beep warns there’s a car approaching. Or you’re about to change lanes when a flashing light gives you the heads-up that there’s a car in your blind spot.

    You can find these and other advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)—using radar, cameras, and other technology—on many new cars. Drivers love some of these features so much that they say they wouldn’t buy a car without them. But others, they tell us, are more trouble than they’re worth.

    We asked more than 47,000 Consumer Reports members how satisfied they are with the ADAS systems on their cars. Our goal: to determine which systems you should look for when buying your next vehicle.

    More on Car Safety

    CR members say they love five systems in particular. These favorites, in order of satisfaction, are: rear cross traffic warning (RCTW), blind spot warning (BSW), adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane centering assistance (LCA), and automatic emergency braking (AEB).

    Drivers say they love features that automatically steer, brake, and accelerate in certain situations, such as in traffic jams and on long highway slogs. But they don’t like systems that second-guess their actions, such as lane departure warning (LDW) and lane keeping assistance (LKA), which beep or take control of steering even when you’re swerving out of a lane to give cyclists a wide berth or to avoid an obstacle in your lane.

    These preferences come as no surprise to Kelly Funkhouser, CR’s program manager for vehicle technology and an ADAS expert. “The best systems help drivers stay safer and more relaxed behind the wheel,” she says. “The worst systems take a driver’s attention away from the road.”

    Here, you’ll learn which brands and models provide the ADAS features that readers said they like the best and that are most effective, and you’ll learn how to assess these systems on a test drive (see “Your Test Drive Checklist,” below).









    Your Test Drive Checklist

    Some ADAS systems work better than others. Here are the questions to ask yourself and the salesperson when taking a test drive.

    Is the Blind Spot Warning on the Side Mirrors?
    Tesla puts its BSW warning in the dashboard display. Such placement can take a driver’s eyes off the road, Funkhouser says. “You should already be checking your mirrors, so it’s the natural place to put a warning,” she says.

    Can You Turn Off Rear AEB?
    Drivers told us they love systems that help them see whether the coast is clear when backing out of a parking space. But they dislike rear AEB systems that are too sensitive and make it harder to back up in crowded parking lots, or that beep when a bike rack is installed on the back of the vehicle. Check whether you can turn off rear AEB while leaving RCTW active in those situations.

    Does the Car Put Up a Fight?
    Some drivers complain that LDW and LKA systems beep relentlessly or aggressively steer the car, even when a driver is intentionally crossing a painted line to avoid trouble. Be sure to try out this feature on a test drive.

    Are the Alarms Too Alarming?
    Drivers tend to prefer systems with a steering wheel or seat vibration over those with an audible beep, Funkhouser says, but they also complained when the vibrations were distractingly strong—as was the case for some Honda and Acura vehicles.

    Does ACC Work in Stop-and-Go Traffic?
    Not all ACC systems work at low speeds, and they can shut off when traffic snarls or creeps at speeds below 20 mph. If you’re buying a car for the ACC, make sure it has a stop-and-go feature.

    Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the October 2022 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

    Head shot photo of CRO Cars CIA editor Keith Barry

    Keith Barry

    Despite my love for quirky, old European sedans like the Renault Medallion, it's my passion to help others find a safe, reliable car that still puts a smile on their face—even if they're stuck in traffic. When I'm not behind the wheel or the keyboard, you can find me exploring a new city on foot or planning my next trip.