Last week I spend a day with Chevy at their Milford Proving Grounds. I saw first-hand demonstrations of Chevy’s latest vehicle safety features, and I left feeling like it might be time to finally upgrade my GM vehicle to the latest version: GM’s newest technology may not be completely automated, but the technology removes a lot of guesswork and anxiety.
The technologies demonstrated included:
Forward Collision Alert and Front Automatic Braking
I’ll start with one of the vehicle safety demos that made the biggest impression on me. Let’s say you are in traffic, and you get distracted; maybe you are fiddling with the radio or talking to another passenger, and you are going under 25 mph, but you don’t realize the person in front of you has stopped. Using front radar, your car knows when you are approaching an obstacle, and if you don’t respond quickly enough, it will actually apply the brakes to stop you! If you are going slow enough, it may avoid the crash altogether. If you are at faster speeds, you may still have a collision, but the impact and severity will be reduced. Look at this as a backup safety measure for times when you aren’t paying 100% attention. And I’m not judging! These lapses can happen to all of us, even when we have the best intentions.
This technology will be available in the 2015 Volt, Malibu, Impala, Equinox, SS, Traverse, Colorado, Silverado, Tahoe, and Suburban.
Side Blind Zone Alert and Lane Departure Warning
Almost every vehicle on the road has blind spots, and when another vehicle is in yours, you might accidentally try to get into their lane without realizing that the other vehicle is already there or fast approaching. The Side Blind Zone Alert helps with this issue, whether it be from a motorcycle in the side lane that you can’t see or another car that just hasn’t made it into your vision line yet. Side Blind Zone Alert uses two rear corner radars, and it is available now on the Cruze, Impala, SS, Traverse, Tahoe and Suburban.
How about this scenario: Lets say you’re traveling at highway speeds and you unintentionally drift into the lane next to yours without using your turn signal. This is something that can happen when you are tired or distracted, but if your vehicle has this feature it can alert you. If you are simply a sloppy lane changer who doesn’t use your turn signal, this will probably be a none to gentle reminder of what you should be doing anyway. This feature uses a front camera on the vehicle.
Rear Vision Camera and Rear Cross Traffic Alert
By 2018, all new vehicles sold in the US will have to include a backup camera as a standard feature. Since 2014, more than half of the new vehicles sold have included a backup camera, but they were often included as a pricey option; no more.
According to federal crash statistics, the NHTSA estimates that between 58 and 69 lives could be saved each year if backup cameras were on every car. About 210 people die each year, primarily toddlers and elderly adults, after being struck by reversing cars and another 15,000 are injured. – Car & Driver
The demo we received showed how a backup camera can display what’s going on behind the vehicle when it is in reverse. Using a rear camera, the driver is able to see a wide view on everything behind the vehicle, including lines which help guide during parking situations. By the way, those lines you see? The side lines indicate the actual width of the car plus a few inches, and the lines going across in increments are one meter each; this technology is available now across the Chevrolet lineup.
Rear traffic alert is a very cool feature, because it let’s you know when another car is approaching as you are pulling out. How many times have you been parked in between two larger vehicles, unable to see is anyone was approaching? You start to pull out, and have to brake hard as you realize there is traffic in the lane that you didn’t see. Using two corner radars, rear traffic alert will help you back out safely. It’s available on the 2015 Cruze, Impala, SS, Traverse, Tahoe and Suburban.
Adaptive Cruise Control
This was one of the coolest (yet freaky) technologies we saw demonstrated, and it is perhaps the one feature that makes it possible for me to envision a day when we could get in our car, enter our destination on the navigator, and then sit back and enjoy the ride. The way Adaptive Cruise Control works is you set it like you would a regular cruise control, but when a vehicle ahead of you slows down, the cruise control — through the use of front radar — will sense it and slow your car down, too — even bringing it to a complete stop if necessary! Once the car in front of you starts moving again, your car will accelerate back up to the previously programmed speed. You still have to steer — so no reading on your iPad as you ride along — and you can override everything if it makes you nervous, but it is truly something cool to experience!
Those are all amazing vehicle safety features, and many of them are available in many 2015 GM vehicles, but of course — none of these features are going to be sufficient if you aren’t wearing your seatbelt!
Bonus Demonstration: Automatic Parking Assist
Here’s something I’m not sure if I’ve ever confessed on Gear Diary: I failed my first driver’s test. I took it in 1983 driving my mother’s 1973 Cadillac, which was a land barge if ever one existed. My first strike was that I failed to yield properly, but then I simply couldn’t parallel park mom’s car; that was enough to make me have to take the test again. 🙁
The next time I took it, I was in her brand new 1983 Toyota Tercel 4×4 Station Wagon; that car was so short that I was able to simply drive it into the parking slot, straighten up, and call it good! Yay!
But to this day, parallel parking intimidates me; I’m not gonna lie. If I am in a car with someone who is able to do it effortlessly, then I can’t help but be impressed. Anyway!
We were in a manual Chevy SS sedan, and it was equipped with Automatic Parking Assist! This is one of the coolest features I have ever seen. You push a button in the center console, which tells the car to start looking for an acceptable parking spot. GM had put a couple of cars in a typical parallel parking situation, but they looked close enough together that if I’d been driving, I would have probably kept looking! The car’s automatic parking assist system didn’t see a problem with it, though!
The driver had to keep his foot on the clutch and be ready to brake, but through some sort of voodoo magic the car basically moved itself where it needed to be.
The system can detect obstacles, gauge the size of a parking space, assess distance to the curb and calculate optimum steering angles for each parking space. The driver, following instructions on the Driver Information Center, controls the accelerator and brake while the Automatic Parking Assist controls the steering. Signals sent from the sensors in the bumpers to the electric power steering rack allow the vehicle to steer itself into the space.
You can override the automatic parking assist at any time, but through the tandem use of front and rear cameras, it can do a better job getting you parked than you’d be able to do yourself. Well, than I could anyway!
Vehicle Parking Assist is available standard in the Chevy SS. I want it in my next car! 😉