Advanced safety features coming to compact cars

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Honda Civic has come a long way since its humble beginnings.

And the all-new 2016 version adds a new element: advanced electronic safety features called Honda Sensing. Forward collision warning and braking, and lane departure technology bring active safety to the compact car class.

Nissan is following suit with its 2016 Sentra.

"Some of these features that were once only available in $100,000-plus cars are now available in a Nissan Sentra," said Chris Schwerkoske, a product planner with Nissan North America.

The Sentra got a mild restyling that you'd hardly notice. The big news is what Nissan calls their Safety Shield technologies, in a more affordable vehicle class.

"We're really excited to not only bring these features into the compact class, but bring them in at a price point so that our customers can afford them," Schwerkoske added.

The Nissan system, like other similar ones, uses a radar unit which constantly monitors the distance to the vehicle ahead. If it senses a collision, it first gives you warnings, then engages automatic braking.

These advanced safety systems are taking the compact-car class by storm. Hyundai is busy rolling out a new Elantra sedan, and it too is available with anti-collision technology.

Typically, advanced safety features start out on high-end luxury models and then eventually work their way down to less expensive ones.

For example, in the mid-1980s, the Mercedes-Benz S-class was one of the most expensive new cars on the market, and it was groundbreaking in featuring both a driver's airbag and anti-lock brakes.

Today we take those things for granted, and now other things formerly reserved for luxury models are on much lower-priced ones.

"Automatic braking will be common in a few years, and before we even get to that, rear-view cameras will be standard on every new car in the United States," said Anton Wahlman, a Northern California-based technology and automotive writer.

The smaller subcompact class is starting to benefit as well. The 2016 Chevy Spark, the most inexpensive car Chevrolet sells, is now available with electronic crash-avoidance systems.

As more and more cars get fitted with the newest safety technology, it stands to reason that everyone on the road is a little bit safer.
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