What’s lane-keeping assist? Do you want it in your next car? Do you need it?
Does your SUV have something called FCA, but you’re not sure what that means or how to use it?
As new safety and driver assistance systems arrive to do everything from automatically hitting the brakes to avoid a pedestrian to warning about an oncoming truck in your blind spot, questions like that become more common every day.
Your vehicle may even have some of the features you’re not even aware of, or that you don’t know how to adjust to do the most good.
They can’t protect you if you don’t know how to use them.
“Only 20% of the people who buy a new car know how to use all its features,” said Roger Doster, AARP’s Michigan chief trainer for driver safety. Doster teaches classes in southeast Michigan. Most are at libraries, community centers and senior centers. “The classes help people understand which safety features might suit them, and how to use them. Nearly 100% of people say they learned something.”
The free classes last about 90 minutes. They’re open to anybody, not just AARP members or retired people. You can find the closest upcoming class on the AARP’s website and searching for “Smart DriverTEK.”
“We use videos to explain the technology, how to use it and its limitations,” Doster said.
“People are most excited about adaptive cruise control and front crash alerts and automatic braking. Once they understand how the systems work, people are very enthusiastic because those are the ones that keep you safest.”
More: Adjusting your car for comfort and safety
While adaptive cruise control — which manages the speed and distance at which you follow other vehicles on the highway — and automatic emergency braking — to avoid collisions — are the big hits, people also appreciate backup cameras and parking sensors, Doster said.
Your dealership should explain the features when you pick up a new vehicle, but everybody forgets, and some cars have more features than anybody will learn in a single sitting.
The backup camera is the only new safety feature most people are familiar with before the class. “Seniors really like them” because it gets harder to turn and look over your shoulder with age, he said.
Lane-departure alerts are the least popular feature. A lot of drivers turn them off because they’re annoying. Learning to adjust the system may help with that.
AARP has 40 Michigan instructors for classes in other new-car tech, but only two for safety features, both in southeast Michigan. The group is looking for more volunteers to offer the classes throughout the state.
Beyond safety, automakers are adding other features faster than most of us can keep up — and may soon add more with over-the-air updates while your car is parked.
Another AARP class focuses on safely using features like voice recognition, navigation systems and using smart phones.
Most new vehicles have some form of a hands-free system so you can take and make calls without holding your phone. That alone reduces driver distraction significantly.
It’s also not uncommon for cars to read text messages to you, or let you dictate an answer while you drive. Texting and driving is among the most dangerous things you can do in a car, but smartphone apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto turn a spoken message into a text.
AARP has about 40 Michigan instructors for that class. It takes eight hours, usually over two evenings. It costs $19.95 for member, $24.95 for the public.
Contact Mark Phelan at 313-222-6731 or email@example.comFollow him on Twitter @ mark_phelan. Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletter.