There's little doubt our expectations for new cars are higher than ever.
Put simply: we crave cars that are smarter (and safer) than we are. And manufacturers are answering that craving with a never-ending game of one upmanship.
Now, driver assistance and safety features that were once "world firsts" or, at the very least, thin on the ground, are becoming commonplace on top-spec models and beyond.
While autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warnings and rear-vision cameras are great, they're no longer enough to satisfy the modern car buyer.
Below, we round up the new technology and features we're coming to expect on our cars.
1. Centre airbags
While we're familiar with frontal, side and curtain airbags, a relatively new airbag is becoming a must-have for modern cars: the centre airbag.
According to ANCAP: "Centre-mounted airbags are designed to provide cushioning between the heads of the two front-seat occupants in side impact or rollover crashes."
"These airbags deploy from the side of the driver’s seat and can minimise neck and spine twist injuries," ANCAP explains.
2. Adaptive cruise control with lane-trace and stop-and-go
Remember when basic cruise control felt futuristic? These days, it's not as exciting unless the word "active" or "adaptive" is in front of it.
Most active or adaptive cruise control systems use radar-based systems to slow down or speed up according to traffic flow and the positioning of the vehicle in front.
Even more advanced offerings are able to identify live speed limit changes and adjust accordingly, as well as slow to a stop at red lights or in bumper-to-bumper traffic, before restarting again.
When paired with lane-trace assist, active cruise control lets your car drive semi-autonomously, keeping you centred in your lane. steering around bends and maintaining a safe distance from slowing vehicles in front.
3. Safe exit warnings
Comprehensive car safety should work when your vehicle is stopped too.
On the 2021 Kia Carnival, the 'safe exit warning' and 'safe exit assist' systems will use sensors located near the tail lights to detect potential approaching hazards when the car is travelling less than 3km/h.
If an oncoming hazard – like a cyclist or another car – is detected, the system will sound an alarm and automatically lock the passenger doors using the child lock until the hazard has cleared.
4. Remote parking and exit systems
Advanced cars can park themselves with driver supervision – but even more advanced cars don't even need the driver to be in the car.
Tesla cars offer an optional feature called 'Smart Summon', which allows equipped vehicles to autonomously exit a parking space and drive roughly 60 metres or less to their owner.
Meanwhile, Kia offers a version called 'Remote Smart Parking Assist' on its new Sorento, enabling drivers to move their car autonomously in and out of a car space using the key fob.
The thinking is that the cars can safely enter and exit tight parking spots, without trapping drivers and passengers inside due to limited room for doors to open.
5. Live blind-spot video feeds
Most modern cars offer some kind of blind-spot monitoring, which alerts you to the presence of another vehicle with a beep or steering-wheel vibration – but some newer models take things a step further.
Honda offers something called 'LaneWatch', which throws a side view up into your infotainment screen when indicating, while the Audi e-tron gives owners the option of replacing their side mirrors with cameras, which display a live video feed of your blind-spot onto a 7.0-inch display at the base of the A-pillars.
The 2021 Kia Sorento throws up a live video feed of your blind spot into the digital driver display whenever you indicate, allowing you to check for cyclists, cars and pedestrians without taking your eyes off the road ahead. A similar system is also offered on the 2021 Hyundai Palisade.
6. Intersection-scanning AEB
Autonomous emergency braking has fast become a must-have feature on cars since it was first introduced in the late 2000s.
Often referred to simply as 'AEB', the system uses sensors to detect obstacles in the vehicle's path and its relative speed toward them, intervening to brake automatically if the driver does not begin slowing in time.
Most cars offer this as standard, but some vehicles only offer it at higher speeds, with low-speed AEB still on the rise.
However, a more specific version of this technology is emerging, known as 'intersection collision warning systems', 'junction AEB' or 'intersection-scanning AEB'.
ANCAP explains: "Intersection collision warning systems use radar systems or similar to detect if vehicles are approaching from the side at intersections and alert the driver of a possible collision."
Meanwhile, Tesla claims its yet-to-be-released Full Self-Driving function will allow its cars to autonomously navigate complex intersections with traffic lights, stop signs and roundabouts.
7. Overhead or 360-degree cameras
While most modern models are now equipped with a rear-vision camera and parking sensors, some now offer a bird's eye view of your car in its surroundings via an overhead camera, a 360-degree camera or a 3D-generated display.
This is particularly useful when parking and maneuvering in tight spaces, or when trying to gauge the outer perimeters of a particularly large car, with some systems able to zoom in on specific spots around the car in order to navigate kerbs or specific obstacles.
Manufacturers like Jaguar Land Rover have even taken the phrase '360-degree' literally by adding an augmented 'underfloor' view to certain models to enable drivers to emulate a see-through bonnet when off-roading.
The 'ClearSight ground view' technology that features on Land Rover and Range Rover cars offers a clear view of the terrain beneath, and directly in front of, the vehicle, allowing drivers to gauge the best approach.