AAA Reveals 2012 Vehicle Technology Trends

Vehicle advancements expand to more affordable makes and models

Phoenix, Ariz., March 1, 2012. Over the past decade, there have been many breakthroughs in vehicle technology. For 2012, the largest trend in vehicle technology is the availability of advanced technologies to more motorists than ever before, according to AAA Car Buying.

“Technologies like anti-lock braking and stability control were once seen as pioneering innovations and are now required or standard features,” said Don Nunnari, vice president of automotive and travel services for AAA Arizona. “Looking ahead, we hope the cost for these technologies continues to come down, allowing more drivers to enjoy all they provide.”

According to AAA Car Buying experts, some of the trickled down trends in new vehicle technology include:

  • Brake Assist recognizes when a driver has instituted an emergency stop. The system then applies full braking power, even if the driver has not pressed the brake pedal hard enough to do this. If the driver backs off the brakes, the system steps out of the picture. This feature was first offered in vehicles after studies showed that even experienced drivers were reluctant to use all the braking power built into their vehicles during an emergency.

  • Parking Proximity Warning Systems and Backup Cameras use sensors to identify items such as animals or people that the driver cannot see because his or her view is blocked within a certain range. Originally a luxury car exclusive, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently researching a regulation that would require automakers to put this technology in all passenger vehicles by 2014.

  • Lane Departure Warning Systems issue a warning that can be audible or take the form of a vibration in the steering wheel to alert a driver that has begun to cross over lane markers without signaling. Originally offered on top Infiniti models, today, lane departure warning systems are more widely available.

  • Active Cruise Control uses a radar or laser to maintain a set distance from the car ahead. If a driver encounters slower traffic, the cruise control will automatically reduce speed by backing off the throttle, returning to the driver’s original speed when traffic clears or speeds up. Newer systems can also apply the brakes when needed to maintain a safe following distance and can bring the car to a stop if necessary. This feature is offered as an option on a wide range of vehicles, including those priced less than $30,000.
  • Stop-Start is well known to any hybrid vehicle owner. This feature automatically stops the gasoline engine when a vehicle is not in motion, saving fuel and reducing emissions. Kia may soon bring this technology to non-hybrid applications in its Soul and Rio models.

  • Driver Alert Warning Systems use lane departure systems and in-vehicle cameras to look for signs of an inattentive or tired driver. When the vehicle senses drowsiness or inattention, it warns the driver to take a break.

  • Blind Spot Warning Systems use a radar or camera to detect and warn a driver that a vehicle is lurking just out of view. Often, an amber light on the appropriate mirror is illuminated when a vehicle is in the driver’s blind spot. If the driver signals to move in that direction, an audible alert or flashing light is activated. First seen in costly vehicles, it is now standard equipment is some family vehicles, including several Mazda models.

While many vehicle advancements intend to improve safety, enhance performance and reduce environmental impact, it is important to note that others can have unintended consequences.

“New technologies can be useful, but they can also be distracting to a driver,” added Nunnari. “AAA advises drivers to become familiar with the feature’s capability, adhere to usage guidelines and to never rely upon a vehicle’s technology alone. A vehicle safety feature is no substitute for a safe driver.”

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AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and auto travel services to nearly 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on the streets and highways of the state as well as providing insurance, travel, and financial services to AAA members and motorists. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. In 2008, AAA was ranked the No. 1 “socially responsible” brand by Landor’s BrandAsset® Valuator.