In our previous installment, we looked at Lane Departure Warning Systems. 

Today we’ll take a look at Blind Spot Warning (BSW) and Intervention (BSI) systems. Keep in mind that if your mirrors are adjusted properly, you would rarely need the electronic nanny. The fact is that the vast majority of drivers have their side-view mirrors improperly adjusted (you can see your door handles) so therefore, the electronic version plays a handy part.

Most BSW systems utilize RADAR systems located within the rear bumper to actively “look” for vehicles encroaching into the space within a set distance around your vehicle. When you’re driving along a highway (usually these systems are set to activate above a certain minimum speed) and another vehicle enters the pre-set (by the manufacturer) drive zone that could be a potential danger if you were to change lanes, the system will alert the driver with a warning light typically mounted in the side-view mirror (or sometimes in the A-pillar). If you use your turn signal to indicate a move into the lane where the other vehicle is located, the system will then typically flash the warning light and also beep at you letting you know that another vehicle is in that restricted space.

Newer systems also include an Intervention function to the feature that will actually use the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) to apply light braking on the opposite side of the vehicle to help keep you in your lane. Other systems can use the electric power steering systems to try and keep you in your lane. Upping the escalation in warning, there may also be haptic feedback in the steering wheel to make a point of “now is not a good time to change lanes.”

Typically these systems work very well but aren’t perfect. It’s up to the driver to use all of the available tools; mirrors, physically moving your eyes and head to look, and always having an awareness of what’s going on around you. Scanning your mirrors every 8-10 seconds is a good rule of thumb. Also, it’s always a great idea to keep your vision up and look way ahead of you down the road. The further ahead you look, the less likely you are to find yourself caught in a situation where you have very little time to change lanes. Looking ahead is a great way to “buy” you some time – and that’s a commodity that’s extremely valuable!

NOTE: Different manufacturers have similar technologies and will use different feature names to describe their individual systems. 

By Larry Mason

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