Need a New Car? Better Bone Up on Tech.

Car Rental Accident

Perhaps it’s been a while since you last bought a new—or newer—vehicle. The latest statistics show that, as a nation, we are holding on to our cars longer than we have in the past. The average age of passenger vehicles still being driven is roughly 12 years; we hang on to our cars, SUVs, and pickups about six years. Many of us are buying used, but we still might not be up to speed on advances made in car tech since we last bought a vehicle. If you haven’t purchased a car in a decade or so, you might be taken aback to discover just how many computerized features are in the latest cars—even in the economy models.

Are you thinking you’ll rely on the dealer’s salesperson to bring you up to speed on all things automotive tech? If so, you might be in for a rude awakening, according to a study done in the spring of 2016 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Agelab. The researchers discovered that, more often than not, the people at the dealership know little about the latest technological advances in the vehicles they are selling. You might want to start doing your own homework, because it’s probable that you won’t receive much help—or might even get incorrect information—from the sales staff.

Details of the Study

In MIT’s study, a team of researchers went undercover, interviewing salespeople at 18 Boston-area dealerships. Their aim was to find out how much knowledge the salespeople demonstrated about technological features that are now commonplace in many new cars, such as:

  • Blind spot monitoring: Alerts you when a vehicle is in your blind spot and a crash is probable
  • Adaptive cruise control: Maintains a safe distance between your car and others by adjusting the vehicle’s speed automatically
  • Lane departure prevention: Alerts you when you are slowly drifting and crossing into another lane.

However, the results of the study were anything but promising for the 17 salespersons:

  • Four were rated “poor” for their explanations of technological features.
  • Only six were rated “thorough” for their explanations of technological features.
  • Two provided explanations of technological features that were incorrect, perhaps dangerously so. One salesperson claimed that the pedestrian detection technology in Fords functions at every speed, but the feature does not activate under the 30 mph threshold. The second salesperson said Chevrolet’s parking assist feature does not require the driver to use the brakes, but it does.

It turns out that the salespeople rated “poor” were mostly selling the brands with lower prices, meaning Fords and Chevrolets. However, salespeople for Subarus and BMWs largely provided accurate information for the technical features in their cars. Specifically, Subaru salespeople got high marks for being well-trained. They also offered buyers useful content that explained the technological features. The enormous variation in what salespeople knew or didn’t know was characterized as “shocking” by Hillary Abraham, the study’s lead author.

Where Can I Go for Help?

You can find out about the technological advances in vehicles by using the internet. A site called, a project of the National Safety Council, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), and the University of Iowa, explains the new features so you can learn what the latest technology can and can’t do. If you download an app from the site into your smartphone, you can also play a game that teaches you the latest in safety tech.

Overall, the news is excellent for new-car buyers. It’s worth learning about the new technological features on your own because they work, improving safety on the road. Ian Reagan, a safety researcher for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), declared, “These systems are really promising.” Almost all of IIHS’s 2017 top safety picks have a number of tech features that assist the driver automatically.

So—do your homework before you buy!

Reasoned advice from seasoned professionals.

The South Carolina vehicular accident lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm have represented injured South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll get the personalized attention you deserve. If you or a loved one has been seriously harmed in a vehicular accident in which the other party was at fault, South Carolina law entitles you to hold that party legally responsible for your medical expenses and vehicle repair bills, as well as any lost wages and other financial losses. You may also seek compensation for pain and suffering or loss of comfort, care and companionship of a loved one. The deadline for filing a claim is already running, so contact the Louthian Law Firm for help by calling us at 1-888-311-2873. If you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.