Like many, I’m counting my blessings this holiday season. Maybe it’s the chill in the air that makes me reflective, or maybe it’s all my Facebook friends sharing what they’re thankful for — and by day 22, how thankful I am for the ability to scroll past them.
I’m also thankful for my family, my friends, my coworkers, a warm house, a heated steering wheel … wait, what? As a Chicagoan, a heated steering wheel offers a little moment of joy during a long winter that started a little too early this year for my taste.
A perk of my job as editor-in-chief is test-driving new cars with all the tech. Sadly, not all of these cars have heated steering wheels, but they do have some of my favorite car features. You know, the ones I’m most thankful for.
Here are a few:
Adaptive Cruise Control
This version of cruise control is wicked-smart, as my friends in Boston would say. What it does is speed up or slow down as needed to keep a set distance from the car you’re following. This system can vary from car to car, but the best ones can brake to a stop if the situation arises. Adaptive cruise helps reduce driver fatigue on those mind-numbing commutes in heavy traffic; it’s also fantastic on long road trips.
Automatic Emergency Braking
The few times I’ve had an automatic emergency braking system engage, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. It’s a perfectly natural reaction because the car has sensed an impending collision and automatically slammed on the brakes to avoid it; that’ll get your blood pumping. In some cars, AEB is paired with forward collision warning, which scans the road and warns the driver if you’re about to crash into something. It’ll alert the driver with a variety of warnings, and if you don’t begin to brake, the car will do it for you. Fair warning: The system can be fooled by glare from the sun or dirt or ice blocking the sensors, and not all automaker systems can bring a car to a full stop. The feature will be in nearly all cars by September 2022.
It wasn’t that long ago that buying a car with a backup camera was kind of a big deal. They’re now standard in model-year 2019 cars — and thank goodness for that. Backup cameras can be life savers. Before backup cameras became optional equipment, some 15,000 people were injured each year in back-over vehicle crashes, and 210 were killed. Look for a backup camera with a sizable viewing screen, high resolution and dynamic guidance lines, which are colored lines that move with the direction of the steering wheel and help you judge how close you are to an object behind you.
Blind Spot Warning
When my kids were younger, I, like most parents, told them I had eyes in the back of my head in hopes of preventing some shenanigans. A car with a blind spot warning system is a legit take on that classic parenting statement. For this safety system, the eyes are sensors and monitor your car’s blind spots, warning when another car is next to yours. Who couldn’t use a little help when changing lanes on a fast-moving highway? Of course, you should still look over your shoulders before changing lanes because some blind spot warning systems don’t “see” motorcycles, bicycles or speeding cars.
Why do I love this feature? Because I have a big-ass purse in which I could probably carry a Smart ForTwo. And while this purse is great for hauling lots of crap — seriously, I don’t need most of the stuff in there — I can’t find anything in it. With keyless access, I just need to know that the car’s key fob is somewhere in my purse. Once I get close enough to the vehicle, it’ll unlock or lock with a push of a small button on the door handle; no need to dig out the key fob.
I could go on and on, but if you haven’t tried out these fantastic features, give them a whirl the next time you’re at the dealership or riding around in a friend’s new car. They’ll quickly become your favorites, too.
Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.