He was pulling away from the intersection like it was no big deal.
I was following behind, paying attention to the traffic coming to my right. As humans, we’re not robots that can look and sense activity in all directions at once, so I glanced over to see if there were any oncoming cars.
That’s when I felt it.
The 2021 Sorento Hybrid EX I was driving automatically slowed down, activating the brakes even though my foot was on the gas. It’s an interesting experience if you have never been in a newer car like this. It’s not sudden at all or alarming. You don’t feel a jolt, you barely even notice. And yet, you know the vehicle has slowed down.
In front of me, the truck had braked to allow someone walking across the road to pass, but they were not that visible from my vantage point. In stark winter settings, with white snow everywhere and a cloudy sky, it’s all a bit of a blur.
The Sorento slowed as though there was an invisible force field. It’s gentle, almost subtle — like the feeling of having some wind push you back when you are walking or riding a bike uphill, pausing as you pedal to feel the lack of momentum.
The technology is called Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist w/ Pedestrian Detection. (This innovation also exists in cars like the 2020 Honda CR-V.) Technically, I didn’t need the pedestrian detection, and the truck saw the person just fine. In fact, the whole incident wasn’t an incident at all.
I likely would have also noticed the truck, but you never know. If my glance had become a longer look at cars coming from the right, I may not have ever braked. What was a minor little tech innovation on full display could have been a love tap on the truck quite easily, and possibly an insurance claim.
Technology like this is often viewed as life-saving, and it is that. In my experience as a car reviewer over the last 10 years, reviewing some 700 cars or so, it is also a hiccup reducer. It’s hard to know what can happen to a vehicle at only 5 MPH on a side-street like this, but you can bet it would be annoying, time-consuming, and even embarrassing.
And then what about other mishaps. I often wonder how many times cars have slowed down for me on their own or braked. I will say it makes me an advocate for newer cars like the Sorento because technology has improved to the point where the sensors actually work.
The alternative is to always pay attention to every detail, something we obviously have had to do for decades before safety technology evolved about 10-15 years ago. We can’t always do that. I’m thankful for how the sensors are always scanning in front of me, looking not only at dangers on the highway but also at a small low-speed issue like a truck that brakes too fast.