More and more cars come with safety features like blind-spot monitoring. A light in or near your rear view mirror lights up when something is in your blind zone. And if you drift out of your lane, some cars caution you with a beep. Consumer Reports Auto Test Center also tests collision-warning systems. The Chrysler 300 beeps if you’re about to hit something. And cars such as the Audi A8 actually apply the brakes for you.
Consumer Reports tests have shown that those advanced systems can help you avoid an accident and improve your awareness. But they’re no substitute for being alert when you drive.
Some Fords have another new safety feature, inflatable rear safety belts. Ford says those mini air bags built into the safety belts reduce neck and chest injuries.
Mercedes-Benz is even offering a warning system that’s designed to detect if you’re in danger of falling asleep behind the wheel. Consumer Reports thinks the concept has potential, but the system hasn’t worked all that well in the four models it has tested so far.
And the new Nissan Altima has a handy feature to help when you’re inflating your tires. When you’ve got it right, the horn toots. Consumer Reports says that properly inflated tires are really important. They improve fuel economy, help handling, and help your tires last longer.
Not all new features are safety related. Like the built-in vacuum coming in the 2014 Honda Odyssey minivan. Or how about a foot-operated trunk or tailgate release? If your hands are full, just swipe your foot under the sensor—a convenient option being offered on some Fords and BMWs.
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.