My car does what? New campaign teaches drivers & shoppers about safety features

March 7, 2016

We spend a lot of time reading and writing about new car technology, and as a fan of auto news, you're probably up-to-date on it, too. Many Americans aren't so lucky, though, so the National Safety Council has launched a new campaign to bring drivers and shoppers up to speed on the many high-tech features available on today's rides.

The timing of the "My Car Does What?" campaign couldn't be better. Between Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and host of other offerings, today's dashboards are becoming very, very cluttered. In fact, the bells and whistles can be so overwhelming that drivers may tune it all out, failing to use some nifty features that could make their drives safer and more enjoyable.

At the same time, autonomous cars have begun rolling our way. They're arriving bit by bit, in the form of specialized features like collision avoidance systems, adaptive cruise control, and automated parking. Many consumers have expressed concern over fully self-driving vehicles, even though their own cars, trucks, and SUVs have some of these very features.

"My Car Does What?" aims to make sense of cluttered instrument panels and clear up confusion about autonomous safety technology. Dreamed up by the NSC and the University of Iowa, the campaign aims to explain some of the features that drivers may already have access to and those that shoppers should look for in their next vehicle. As the Daniel McGehee, director of the Transportation and Vehicle Safety Program at the University of Iowa, explains:

"These advanced technologies are rapidly becoming a part of cars on our roadways. Some technologies like anti-lock braking system have been around for years, yet our research shows there are still knowledge gaps in the understanding of these technologies. As these technologies continue to be infilitrate the automotive market, we want to make sure consumers know how use them, so their safety benefit can be fully realized on the road."

While these sorts of campaigns are often pitched to state departments of motor vehicles and other safety-focused agencies, "My Car Does What?" has plenty of material that's suitable for laypeople, including videos and info pages on more than two dozen of today's safety features. (You'll find a video overview for the campaign embedded above.)

"My Car Does What?" contains useful info for a wide range of viewers. Those who aren't so tech-savvy will appreciate the general lack of jargon, the straightforward descriptions of features, and the campaign's selection of games. Technology enthusiasts will like the "deeper learning" section of the site, which provides more information than some folks need.  And everyone will appreciate the rundown of instrument panel icons, which can be confusing to anyone these days.

Start your visit to the site by skimming through the full list of today's safety features. Afterward, check out the handy collection of videos and PDFs explaining individual systems.

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