Driver Assist Programs Take Center Stage in Detroit

New technology to help drivers control their vehicles was everywhere at the Detroit Auto Show recently. Systems like adaptive speed control and park assist that are geared toward keeping drivers from making simple errors and helping them avoid accidents are becoming widely available, and not just in the most luxurious models. Even two years ago such technology was only available in the highest end models and for a sizeable price. But like most technology, it’s becoming cheaper and easier to find.

For example, Chrysler unveiled its new 2015 200 midsize sedan, which is priced around $22,000. The car will have numerous safety features available, such as park assist, lane departure warning and adaptive speed control.

George Hoffer, business professor at University of Richmond, follows the automotive industry. He recently offered this point of view regarding the new safety technology, “For someone like me at 70, these (systems) have tremendous sociological importance. They will keep aging baby boomers in their cars longer as their driving skills decline.”

Lexus also has introduced here in the U.S. a new V8 RC coupe which was unveiled in Tokyo last month. Infinity also offered up a high-performance concept version of the new Q50 sedan. Cadillac showed the new midsize ATS coupe, and Acura revealed a 2015 TLX sedan prototype that will be ready in about six months.

The new safety systems are not the number one selling point for everyone yet, but they are certainly becoming more important to the youngest and oldest drivers.

Consider this story from Eric Ibara, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, who said, “I didn’t appreciate it until it saved me from an accident.” Ibara suddenly approached slow moving traffic, and the adaptive speed control system sensed the distance between his car and the upcoming traffic and applies the brake if the driver’s reaction time is too slow. He said, “If I had been a second later to respond, I probably could not have stopped.”

This type of safety system is available in the new Chrysler 200 among other models. In the 200, if a driver attempts to change lanes and there is a vehicle in the driver’s blind spot, the car will steer itself back into the original lane.

Hoffer says that the main expense is in developing the technology, but he also sees a future of widespread availability. Ibara also agrees: “In the not-too-distant future, we will see all of these systems in the Darts, Focuses and Cruzes of the world.”

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