Onboard Emergency Assistance

Available in all new GM vehicles, OnStar can put drivers in touch with real-life help on a 24/7 basis in the case of an emergency – furthering peace of mind when travelling away from home. At the touch of a button, anyone driving your Cruze, Escalade, Verano or Corvette is connected to an OnStar advisor who can hook them up with a tow-truck, ambulance, directions, or other assistance. OnStar can even automatically alert emergency personnel of your vehicle’s location and status after an airbag deployment if you’ve had a whoopsie. As an older brother and son, I’m happy my sister and mom both have OnStar in their rides (a Cruze and an Equinox) when they’re out and about in winter. Best thing? Even if you don’t have your cell phone handy, the system still works, since it has one built in. And that built-in one has an amplified signal for better reception up north, where the cellular coverage is patchy in many areas.

Other automakers are rolling out similar systems, too, such as Infiniti Connection, 
Mercedes-Benz TeleAid and Acuralink Connect.

Hands-Free Functionality

Steering wheel–mounted controls, voice command, automatic lights and automatic wipers are all becoming more common and affordable. Team up a bunch of ‘set it and forget it’ features with some voice-commanded features and a little Bluetooth, and maybe push-button access to your iPhone’s Siri, and you’ll virtually never have to take your eyes off of the road or hands off of the wheel to change radio stations, adjust the wiper speed, turn up the heat because it’s getting frosty, or call the wife to tell her you won’t be home on time to enjoy her Tuna Casserole on account of the weather. Remember: eyes on the road and hands on the wheel is key for maximum safety when the going gets blizzardy.

Advanced Warning

More and more models are offering advanced hazard-detection systems, including my favourite, Forward Collision Warning (FCW). Late into a long drive, you might see, but not process, that there’s a hazard up the road. Using radar (be sure to keep the sensor clear of snow) or camera, the FCW system can advise drivers that they’re closing in rapidly on another vehicle, often a second or two before the driver might have otherwise chosen to react. When the roads are slippery, mere milliseconds can make all the difference between avoiding an accident or plowing head-on into the back of a dump truck – especially when your eyes are strained, you’re dozy, and you’ve got tunnel vision from the past hour of Star Wars snowflake streaks past your windshield. Having an FCW system on board your ride can provide that little bit of extra warning, when you need it, which pays for itself the first time it prevents an accident.

Connect with Autos.ca