2017 Toyota Corolla

Ted LaturnusWhether it’s because there are simply more cars than ever on the planet, or drivers are becoming progressively more stupid, or car manufacturers just don’t have anything else to focus on, one thing is clear: cars are safer than ever. Today’s breed of automobile is chock-full of safety goodness.

Good thing too, because things are not getting better out there. In 2015, for example, according to an Allstate Insurance safe driving study conducted in the same year, vehicle accident rates in Canada were up almost 10 per cent over 2013, and rear-end collisions have now been identified as the most frequent mishap of all: over 25 per cent. The three most common causes of accidents? Frontal collisions, unintended lane departures, and night visibility problems….not necessarily in that order.

No surprise then that any manufacturer not equipping its models with up-to-date safety equipment is at an immediate sales disadvantage, and things like rearview camera, lane departure alert, radar-activated cruise control, pre-collision systems and so on are now commonplace in the industry.

“The auto industry is undergoing huge changes right now,” says Toyota Canada vice-president, Stephen Beatty, “but many drivers don’t fully understand all the various safety features.” According to a study by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, some 40 percent of all drivers are “apprehensive” about advanced vehicle safety systems, and at least 20 percent of all drivers say they need more information.

So do dealers, for that matter, and Toyota Canada is embarking on a campaign that will see virtually all of its models – from top to bottom – fitted with a variety of  safety features….what the company calls the TSS (Toyota Safety Sense) system.

At the introduction of the 2017 Corolla, Beatty stressed how pivotal TSS is to his company and what priority is being placed on it. “I’m not going to talk about horsepower or torque today,” he said, “but about fundamental changes in automotive safety technology. By 2017, over 150,000 Canadian drivers will be driving cars that features TSS….and that includes the Corolla.”

So what is it? In a nutshell, TSS incorporates things like a visual/audio alert when the driver inadvertently changes lanes, automatic high beams, a dynamic cruise control system, and automatic braking when an accident seems inevitable.

The last feature is particularly intriguing. If the driver is cruising along but doesn’t notice an upcoming object – car or pedestrian – that is unavoidable, the vehicle will brake automatically at the last moment and hopefully, avoid impact. Toyota isn’t the first carmaker to adopt this system, but it may be the first to install in all their models, with the exception of the Prius C and Lexus NX. Until now, it’s been optional in various Volvos, Mercedes, Lexus’, BMWs and others.

But it isn’t perfect. Yes, it will definitely bring the car to a halt, but on snow or ice, or if the front grille is blocked with snow/mud, all bets are off. Nor will it detect motorcycles. Apparently, the software utilized in the system has specific “outlines” built into it, and anything that is not a pedestrian or vehicle will not be recognized. As a lifetime motorcyclist and occasional bicyclist, I find this kind of troubling….especially given the number of bikes and scooters on the roads these days.

Still, it’s better than nothing at all, and, in the case of the Corolla, the addition of TSS raises the car’s base price by just $300…a small price to pay.

Speaking of which, the 2017 Corolla starts at $16,290 for the CE model, going up to $20,990 for the LE Eco…..before extras.

Manufacturer’s Site: Toyota

Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist Of The Year twice and is past president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

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