If you’re shopping for a new car, chances are you’ve seen blind-spot monitoring as a standard feature or on the options list. If you’re not sure what to make of the safety tech, we can help. The feature can be a cool convenience, but is it worth getting?
What Is Blind-Spot Monitoring?
Blind-spot monitoring uses a set of sensors mounted on the side mirrors or rear bumper to detect vehicles in the adjacent lanes. If the sensors detect something, they’ll alert you via an audible and/or visual warning. Some vehicles even use a camera as the main part of the system or to complement the sensors.
As the cost of the tech has gone down, the safety and convenience feature is now offered across the market—not just on luxury vehicles. Models ranging from the subcompact Nissan Versa to massive trucks like the Ford Super Duty all offer the feature.
You’ll often find blind-spot monitoring bundled with a rear cross-traffic alert feature, which detects vehicles, objects, or a pedestrian in the car’s way when reversing out of parking spots. Nissan and Ford bundle blind-spot monitoring as part of their suites of active safety technologies. Other automakers like Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, and Subaru restrict them to upper trims or more expensive vehicles.
How Do Blind-Spot Monitoring Systems Differ?
Automakers have recently expanded beyond detecting what’s in your blind spots. Ford and Ram both offer blind-spot monitoring systems that detect the trailer you’ve attached. In this case, the feature becomes a highly useful tool for pulling your payload because the system detects cars next to your trailer. How does a truck like a Ford F-150 pull that off? Using sensors mounted inside the taillight clusters, which extends the system’s line of sight to include whatever you’ve hooked up on the truck.
Another recent upgrade to blind-spot monitoring is a change from passively warning to actively helping the driver avoid a potential collision. For example, if the car you’re driving detects a car next to you when you’re about to change lanes, it can manipulate the steering and brakes to try to avoid a collision.
So Is Blind-Spot Monitoring Worth It?
Blind-spot monitoring is one of the most useful tools for keeping safe. If you pay attention to the audible or visual warnings, they can minimize your changes of merging into another vehicle. Systems with collision prevention functionality add further value to blind-spot monitoring because they actively steer or brake, adding another layer of security during your drive.
More price-conscious buyers may scoff at the tech and correctly note that drivers (mostly) coped without these features for decades. That’s true, and if you’re buying an especially low-priced new car, you’ll probably be fine without it. But if you’re buying a $40,000 SUV with far larger blind spots than your 15-year-old sedan ever had, blind-spot warning systems may be worth it.
What Should You Look for in a Good Blind-Spot Monitoring System?
- Find the location of the indicator lights. They’re usually on the side mirrors outside the cabin or inside the car, on the A-pillar next to the window.
- Check if you can change the warning chime’s volume. Some blind-spot monitoring systems may emit loud sounds in their default setting.
- Find out if the system includes rear cross-traffic alert or rear cross-traffic braking. Both can provide added peace of mind in busy parking lots when you’re reversing and have limited visibility.
What Do Some Automakers Call Their Blind-Spot Monitoring Systems?
- Toyota and Lexus: Blind Spot Monitor
- Honda and Acura: Blind Spot Information System
- Nissan and Infiniti: Blind Spot Warning
- Volkswagen: Blind Spot Monitor
- Audi: Audi Side Assist
- Mercedes-Benz: Blind Spot Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist
- BMW: Active Blind Spot Detection
- Volvo: Blind Spot Information System
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