ITASCA, Illinois — MyCarDoesWhat.org, a new website from the National Safety Council and the University of Iowa, is designed to help educate consumers about the latest vehicle safety technologies before they hit the road or head out to the dealership to do some car shopping.
Some safety features that have been around for years, such as airbags and antilock brakes, are already very familiar to drivers.
Others, like rearview back-up cameras — standard equipment on about half of 2015 models and mandated by the government for 2018 — are fairly straightforward and probably don't require much explanation.
But new high-tech safety technology is being rolled out every year, and some of these features can leave consumers wondering how they work and whether they're worth paying for.
"The fact is that safety technologies save lives, yet many drivers don't know what they are or how to use them," said Deborah Hersman, president and chief executive officer of the National Safety Council. "Knowledge is power. MyCarDoesWhat.org puts motorists in the driver's seat to make our roads safer."
The site uses clear, concise explanations, infographics and entertaining videos to help consumers learn about such features as blind-spot monitors, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, active steering, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic parallel parking.
Often these latest safety devices are introduced on high-end models, but increasingly they can be found as standard or optional equipment on midrange and even entry-level vehicles.
For example, adaptive cruise control, which uses radar or laser sensors and automatic braking to maintain distance between vehicles, was once limited to brands like Acura, Cadillac, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. But now it's available on more affordable models such as the Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda CR-V and Mazda 3.
Active park assist, a system that automatically steers a vehicle into a parallel parking space, was introduced on the Lexus LS series and other luxury cars but is now available on such models as the Ford Escape and Toyota Prius.
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, arriving at dealers early next year, comes standard with a rearview camera and offers a range of available safety features, including side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and forward collision alert.
As previously reported by Edmunds, industry analysts at IHS Automotive predict that by 2020, 40 percent of passenger vehicles in North America will have blind-spot monitors, 27.1 percent will be equipped with autonomous emergency braking, 23.3 percent will have lane-departure warnings, 13.6 percent will come with active park assist and 13.4 percent will have adaptive cruise control.
As this kind of safety technology becomes more widespread, even at lower price points in the market, consumers are sure to have questions that may be answered by MyCarDoesWhat.org.
Edmunds says: Consumers also can learn more about vehicle safety at the Edmunds.com Car Safety page.