Best car safety features in modern vehicles

reverse camera on car infotainment screen


Posted May 15, 2024

Seatbelts and airbags used to be cutting-edge car safety features, but they’re now standard safety inclusions. Here are the most common driver assistance technologies helping make vehicles safer.

Driver assistance technologies are safety features that help to prevent or reduce the severity of a crash. This tech can help keep you safe on the road, with the potential to reduce crashes and even save lives by doing so.

When buying a new or used car, make sure to read up on its driver assistance technologies as well as its ANCAP safety rating. Since different car manufacturers can use different names for these technologies, it pays to understand what the most common driver assistance technologies are and how they work to help keep you safe.

You can use the website How Safe is Your Car, created by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), to check which safety features your vehicle has.

The most common driver assistance technologies

Head-Up Display

Head-up display is an innovative way to see crucial information, such as speed, speed limit, and navigation directions without the need to look down. The information is displayed within your line of sight on your windscreen, which means you can keep your eyes on the road. You can retrofit any vehicle with a head-up display device, which can be mounted on your dashboard and plugged into the 12V lighter socket or USB port. It can also be linked to your phone through an app.

Driver Attention Detection

Driver attention detection, also known as fatigue detection, alerts the driver with a sound and visual on the dashboard when drowsiness is detected. This alert encourages drivers to take an appropriate driving break.

The technology works by monitoring and assessing information like length of time driving, steering wheel movements, or – in more advanced versions – the driver’s head and eye movements.

The TAC reports that fatigue is a contributing factor in 16 to 20 per cent of all road crashes in Victoria. While this technology can help drivers avoid fatigued driving, they are still encouraged to avoid driving entirely if fatigued and to take regular driving breaks.

Active Cruise Control

Active cruise control measures the distance and speed of your vehicle versus the vehicle in front of you to maintain a suitable following distance while cruise control is activated. The follow distance can be set by the driver.

Advanced systems can even bring your car to a full stop in traffic and continue to follow at a set distance when traffic moves on. Some manufacturers refer to this as Stop and Go.

Some systems, including Teslas also monitor traffic lights and will sound an alert for the driver when a red light turns green.

Traffic Sign Recognition

Many new vehicles now include traffic sign recognition which scans the road for speed limit signs and show a visual display of the set limit.

Some vehicles will sound an alarm or show a visual warning if the speed limit is exceeded. Other systems will automatically identify the new limit and allow the driver to change their cruise control directly to the new limit by accepting the new speed, instead of needing to change it manually.



car safety information on infotainment screen

Low-speed collision systems are designed to prevent you hitting obstacles or pedestrians. Image: Ben Weinstein


Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)

Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) automatically brakes the vehicle if the driver doesn’t respond to a collision warning in forward, and increasingly reverse gear. This technology can prevent potential crashes or help lessen the impact of a crash.

The TAC estimates that AEB reduce rear-end crashes resulting in fatalities or serious injuries by 27 per cent.

Emergency Brake Assist

Emergency brake assist, also known as brake assist system, helps minimise stopping distance. It does this by detecting any sudden braking and automatically increasing the force being applied to the brakes. It is not considered a collision avoidance system like autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)

Anti-lock brake systems (ABS) controls braking force to prevent tyres from skidding when you break heavily or in slippery conditions. This gives the driver more steering control during brakes.

ABS have been standard in cars since the late 1980s and are now fitted to most new vehicles. They were designed to solve the problem of earlier braking systems locking up the car’s back wheels in an emergency brake, causing dangerous ‘fishtailing’. ABS detects each wheel’s rotational speed and releases hydraulic fluid if the wheel rotates too slowly to prevent locking up.

Low speed collision avoidance systems

Low speed collision systems use a combination of cameras and ultrasonic sensors to monitor the front, rear and side of the vehicle to help prevent low-speed collisions with pedestrians or obstacles. The system warns the driver with visual and audible alerts and will assist with braking to help prevent a collision. In comparison, AEB goes one step further and actually applies the brakes.



person pointing at reverse camera video on car infotainment screen

Forward cameras can help drivers navigate hidden objects in parking lots. Image: Supplied


Reverse Camera

Reverse cameras use a camera and a display monitor to show drivers what’s behind their vehicle when in reverse. They enhance rear visibility, helping drivers to see vehicles, pedestrians and objects that may not be seen through the rear-view mirror and head checks alone.

Reverse cameras can help drivers see objects below eyeline, such as small children. They should not replace manually checking behind your car for obstacles before reversing, however.

Newer vehicles are likely to incorporate a 360-degree system to give a top-down view of the car which augments a reverse camera system.

The TAC reports that reversing technologies have reduced pedestrian crashes by between 31 to 41 per cent.

Reverse Collision Warning/Braking

Reverse collision warning, also called rear cross traffic alert, uses cameras or sensors to alert the driver when a vehicle, pedestrian or object crosses their vehicle’s path as they reverse. The warning is usually an auditory alarm that beeps more rapidly as the driver approaches the obstacle. If the vehicle is equipped with reverse braking, it will also apply the brakes if it senses an imminent collision.

Forward Collision Warning and Assist

Forward collision warning systems warn drivers of an impending crash if they get too close to the vehicle ahead, usually with an audible alert or a visual display. Drivers can then brake or take an evasive action like steering to avoid rear-ending a slower moving or stopped vehicle.


blind spot warning on car wing mirror

Blind spot monitoring alerts the driver when vehicles are in their 'blind spot' before a lane change. Image: Getty


Blind Spot Monitoring

Blind spot monitoring, also called blind spot warning, uses sensors to detect vehicles when they are in the driver’s ‘blind spot’ during a lane change and alerts the driver with an audio or visual warning.

In some versions, the warning is visual and changes to an audible or tactile warning if the driver indicates to change lanes when there is an object in their blind spot.

The TAC estimates that blind spot warning systems have reduced lane change crashes by 14 per cent.

Lane Departure Warning

Lane support systems help prevent drivers from veering dangerously out of their lane. Dangerous veering can be caused by many things, such as inattention, speeding, fatigue or alcohol, making lane-keeping assistance one of the most important modern vehicle safety features.

A lane departure warning system monitors lane markings, detects when the vehicle is drifting out of its lane, and alerts the driver with an audio, visual or tactile alert. The driver can then steer their vehicle safely back into their lane.

Lane Keep Assist

The lane keep assist vehicle safety feature takes lane departure warnings a step further: if the driver doesn’t act when the lane departure warning is given, the lane keep assist system will take over steering to gently guide the vehicle back into its lane. When drivers use their indicator, lane keep assist disengages to allow for intentional lane changes.

The TAC estimates that lane keep assistance reduces head-on crashes and run-off-road crashes, reducing fatalities and serious injuries by 22 per cent.

There is a limit to lane keep assistance, however: they struggle to function on gravel roads, in snow, or in any other road conditions where there are no visible lane markings or a distinct road edge.

Lane Change Assist

Lane change assist augments lane keep assist to guide the vehicle between lanes if the indicator is applied and the vehicle identifies a safe gap. Once the manoeuvre is complete, it will centre the vehicle in the next lane and will match its existing set speed.


car wing mirror showing surroundings

Lane support systems help prevent drivers from veering dangerously out of their lane. Image: Ben Weinstein


Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

Electronic stability control (ESC), sometimes called an electronic stability program (ESP), helps keep the driver's intended direction if their vehicle isn’t correctly responding to their steering. It automatically activates when the system detects the driver has lost control of the car.

ESC uses sensors to monitor direction of travel and steering wheel position. It can stabilise the car during sudden evasive manoeuvres by braking individual wheels.

ESC is a mandatory feature for all new cars sold in Australia: no wonder, since the TAC reports that vehicles fitted with ESC are involved in 32 per cent fewer single-vehicle crashes and 58 per cent fewer roll-over crashes that result in driver injury. It’s not possible to retrofit, so make sure to check for ESC if buying a used car.

Traction Control Systems

Traction control systems are an ESC system that prevents wheels from spinning by reducing engine power or applying temporary braking force. This lets vehicles smoothly speed up, even on slippery surfaces. Traction control systems use the same methods as stability control, but their capabilities are smaller and directed at the driven wheels, for example the front wheels for a front-wheel drive. 

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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions, please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.