Even before seat belts, automakers were trying to elevate car safety. Over the years, along came airbags, high-strength occupant cages and crumple zones -- all to bring more protection for passengers. In recent times, we've observed an even more breakneck pace at which car safety innovations are being developed.

We have marked five notable systems from five different automakers. Other manufacturers offer similar technologies, but here are the standouts:

1. Ford Blind Spot Information System With Cross-Traffic Alert

This system uses two multiple beam radar modules to detect vehicles in the driver's blind spots. It essentially senses all traffic approaching from the side within a given distance and then alerts the driver with a well-placed indicator light. In addition, Ford's system also features cross-traffic alert, which warns the driver of an approaching vehicle while backing out of a parking spot or driveway.

2. Volvo City Safety

Each year, there are thousands of low-speed rear-end collisions. This system is designed to prevent these occurrences by way of automatic braking. It utilizes an infrared sensor to monitor the area ahead of the vehicle when moving at speeds of 2-19 miles per hour. City Safety applies the brakes when forward traffic comes to an unexpected halt.

3. Honda Collision Mitigation

Higher-speed forward collision warning technologies are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. This system's grille-housed radar sensor monitors the speed and distance interval of traffic ahead. When the system detects the risk of a crash with vehicles in front, it will flash a warning light, tug the driver's seat belt and begin braking to lessen the severity of the collision.

4. Audi Lane Assist

Audi's lane departure warning system gives visual and auditory alerts if the vehicle begins to drift from its intended lane. Unlike similar systems, Audi's system will not intervene in actual driving. Instead, it will send vibrations to the steering wheel to alert the driver of an unexpected change in the vehicle's path. This system is especially effective in mitigating the risks of driver drowsiness.

5. Mercedes-Benz Night View Assist PLUS

This innovative technology alerts the driver to pedestrians and animals at night. Using a forward-facing infrared camera, it detects pedestrians and animals too close to the roadway and then highlights them on a hi-res, color-enhanced night-view image display within the instrument cluster. Additionally, there are spotlights in the headlight housings that flash to warn people and animals of the approaching vehicle. A preventative measure, indeed.

All five of these technologies bring an added level of safety and security to the driving experience. And there are others like them on the market. Find out which car safety innovations are available on your next test drive.

author photo

Jessica Shea Choksey is an automotive journalist and former writer/reporter for the PBS/Discovery Channel television series "MotorWeek." She began her career in journalism as an editor for numerous magazines and publications mainly outside of the automotive field. Jessica currently resides with her family, in Southern California.

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