Leading manufacturers strive to improve vehicle safety with clever innovations such as monitoring for lane departure and a potential forward collision, pedestrian and cyclist detection and even intelligent headlight control.
While these smart technologies will filter down from luxury class to family cars, post-production installation to existing vehicles wasn't considered viable until Mobileye's C2-270 Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) became available for retrofitting.
Mobileye is a leader in monocular vision-based ADAS after more than 12 years research and development and their systems are now integrated into a range of new vehicles including BMW, Volvo, General Motors, Hyundai and Renault.
The C2-270 warns drivers should they drift out of their lane or get too close to the vehicle in front, compromising critical distance for emergency braking.
Pedestrian and cyclist proximity alerts give drivers sufficient reaction time to avoid potential collisions. Mobileye says 1.5 seconds of early warning may prevent up to 90 per cent of rear-end collisions.
We covered inner-city driving on local suburban streets, traversed busy freeways and toured winding country roads in our test vehicle, a 2006 Holden Commodore. Spending plenty of time on the road, we soon saw the value of the system's constant state of awareness.
Unlike a driver's concentration levels that vary over time, Mobileye never gets frustrated, tired or distracted.
The neat installation has two visible components. First, a small warning display next to the instrument cluster that changes from green to red, accompanied by an audible alarm.
Second, a camera mounted behind the rear-vision mirror measures distance to vehicles, lane markings and pedestrians.
Because the C2-270 processor requires several inputs, such as speed, brakes, indicators, wipers and headlights (high beam), this is not a DIY installation.
A Mobileye-trained technician, who can calibrate the system to your specific vehicle, is required to install it.
First impressions were positive, with clear audible and visual warnings. Adjusting volume settings to suit driver preferences allows the system to alert the driver rather than startle them.
Impressively, the C2-270 quickly calculates vehicle speed and braking variables to increase or reduce warning periods and allow sufficient reaction time.
We tried to fool the system's powers of observation, but our test vehicle achieved a near-perfect score, only reacting to genuine potential danger.
We could only fault it on winding country roads when sweeping left-hand bends resulted in the lane wander warning chiming over-enthusiastically.
Checking back with Mobileye we found there was a software update and minor calibration that would correct this sensitivity.
Thanks to my new electronic companion I made subtle adjustments to my driving habits.
It became a challenge to make every drive buzzer-free, allowing the system to operate as a silent stealthy observer.
After returning the vehicle, the safety improvement to my driving habits are lingering - a positive effect I expect most parents would love to see as their teenagers get behind the wheel.
The Mobileye C2-270 costs $1450 installed. For further information phone Security Gear in Carlisle on 9414 9045.