Making sense of all the safety features included on your potential new car can be troublesome, due to the vast number of acronyms that exist nowadays. Some manufacturers like to give established safety features their own unique branding which can confuse things further.

To help you out, here’s our guide to many of the common safety features seen on today’s new cars. We summarise what numerous acronyms for new car safety feature stand for and what each feature does to make your driving experiences safer.

Electronic Stability Control/Programme (ESC/ESP)

Electronic Stability reduces how much a vehicle rolls while travelling through a corner. It helps to restore full stability even when the car is threatening to breakaway and lose control.

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

Another very common feature in modern cars, anti-lock brakes prevent the wheels from locking during heavy braking. This reduces the braking distance of a car and significantly improves handling under braking. ABS is especially useful in an emergency stop or when driving in poor weather conditions as it prevents skidding while coming to a stop.

Traction Control System (TCS)

Traction Control, also known as Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), is a gadget that varies the engine output if loss of control is detected.

TCS can detect when understeer or oversteer is about to occur while on the move. In reaction, it can reduce the amount of torque being sent to individual wheels to minimise these effects and secure full control to the driver.

Electronic Braking Limitation/Brake-force Distribution (EBL/EBD)

This manages the varying braking pressure between each wheel of the car. It helps to reduce speed while also giving the driver maximum control over steering. This feature is always featured in addition to anti-lock brakes (ABS).

Brake Assist

This driver aid increases the amount of braking pressure when it detects the driver is undertaking emergency braking. This feature can cut the stopping distance by as much as one fifth and is nowadays very common on new cars.

Collision avoidance system

This refers to the braking technology designed to prevent low-speed accidents, or at least reduce their severity. Usually relying on radar-based sensors at the front of the car, this gadget feature can detect an imminent impact with another car or object in front. In response, the car will automatically apply the brakes for the driver.

This feature can be seen now on a fair number of family cars when choosing a top trim level. Each manufacturer tends to give their collision avoidance system its own branding however. Examples include Ford’s ‘Active City Stop’ and Mazda’s ‘Smart City Brake’.

Cruise Control

Cruise Control automatically controls the speed of the car at a set amount without the driver’s input.

Cruise control is usually standard on new premium cars or when choosing high-level trims for cheaper family cars and city cars.

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)

Like Cruise Control, but a more sophisticated version. Adaptive Cruise Control can monitor the surrounding traffic with radar sensors.

With this info, ACC can automatically adjust the speed to the current driving conditions, allowing the driver to focus simply on steering.

Blind Spot Detection

Usually built into the wing mirrors, blind spot detectors can alter the driver when there’s another car in their blind spot.

When a driver indicates to turn and there’s something in the car’s blind spot, the detector will alert the driver, usually both visually and with audio.

Lane Departure Warning System

When a car is on the road and not using its indicators, a Lane Departure Warning System can inform a driver when their car is drifting out of its lane. This is usually achieved with radar sensors on the side of the car, which detect when the vehicle is crossing a white line on the side of the lane.

When a car starts crossing over one of the white lines, possibly due to loss of concentration, the Lane Departure Warning System will alert the driver possibly with an alarm noise or by vibrating the steering wheel.

Parking Sensors

A common feature on premium cars and top trim level family cars, Parking Sensors calculate the distance of other objects to the proximity of a car’s rear (or front).

These sensors support the driver while parking by indicating, typically via a beeping sound, how close they are to other objects. The closer the car is to another object, the shorter delay there is between each beep. Parking sensors are most commonly installed to the rear of a car, but some cars can provide these at the front as well. The feature normally switches on automatically when a car is put in reverse gear.

Providing additional convenience and safety for the driver, rear Parking Sensors may also be supported by a rear camera. The image from this is typically displayed on a screen situated around the centre console.

Active Headlights

A common feature nowadays on premium cars, Active Headlights can adapt to the direction a car is travelling in. In the dark or other low visibility scenarios, Active Headlights effectively allow the car to ‘look’ around a corner.

More sophisticated versions of Active Headlights are supported with cameras that can monitor the road ahead and adjust the headlamps accordingly. So therefore if visibility is particularly low, the Active Headlights can automatically turn on full beam. If another car is detected coming towards you, however, then the beam will automatically adjust to avoid dazzling other drivers.

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

There are two basic types of TPMS - ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ pressure monitoring.

The direct type consists of a sensor inside each tyre which measures the pressure and relays information to the car’s onboard computer. Therefore, it can display the current status of tyre pressure and signal a warning when there’s an issue in this regard.

The indirect type of TPMS involves the anti-lock brake system (ABS), which receive sensors for monitoring wheel speed. If one of these sensors detects a change in the wheel speed relative to the other wheels, it will assume that there’s been an important change in the tyre pressure.

Parking Assist

Parking Assist gadgets use radar technology to detect a space suitable for parallel parking. When such a suitable space is chosen, the assist can then automatically steer the car tidily into the parking bay with the driver only controlling the gas and brake pedals.

Traffic Sign Recognition

Another feature that’s becoming a lot more common to family cars in higher-spec trims, this gadget utilises a camera inbuilt to the front of the car.

This camera has the ability to read traffic signs ahead on the road. It can then relay this info to the driver via a display screen on the dashboard or with an audio reminder.