In the 1960s the U.S. was laser-focused on winning the space race. Nearly 6 decades later, the race to the first autonomous vehicle is underway. Unlike the first trip to the moon which was limited to Neil Armstrong and crew, autonomous vehicle technology will eventually become available to the masses with many semi-autonomous features already on the market. When you think of self-driving cars, Tesla is likely the first brand to come to mind. While Tesla is undoubtedly leading the pack in self-driving technology, the luxury brand comes at a hefty price. If you want to have the latest driver assist features without the exclusive price tag, these are the top features to look for and 5 affordable vehicles (under $30,000 starting MSRP) that offer them.

Driver Assist Features 

Fords collision assist
Ford's CoPILOT360 offers Pre-Collision Assist with automatic braking. (image: Ford)

Driver assist systems use cameras and sensors to automatically monitor traffic conditions and the position of your vehicle in relation to your lane and other cars on the road. Some driver assist features let your vehicle automatically brake or steer itself back into its lane or into a parking spot. The benefits include increased safety, convenience and improved fuel economy (which adaptive cruise control can provide). Most automakers are now offering suites of driver assist features including:

  • Forward Collision Warning: visual and audible alerts for the driver to avoid a collision while moving forward
  • Automatic Emergency Braking/City Automatic Emergency Braking: the vehicle will automatically apply the brakes to avoid or reduce the impact of a collision at highway or city speeds
  • Lane Departure Warning/Lane Keep Assist: an alert is activated when the driver leaves their marked lane/the vehicle will steer itself back to its lane
  • Pedestrian Detection: the vehicle detects pedestrians and can alert the driver and brake automatically
  • Blind Spot Warning: the vehicle will alert the driver when there is a vehicle in the blind spot when the turn signal is activated
  • Rear Automatic Emergency Braking: brakes are automatically applied when the driver is in danger of backing into something behind the vehicle 
  • Lane Centering Assist: the vehicle will actively steer itself to stay in between lanes
  • Adaptive Cruise Control: this technology allows your vehicle to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front and slow or stop if needed

1. Nissan Rogue

2019 Nissan Rogueimage: Nissan

Nissan's Intelligent Mobility system offers level 2 autonomy, meaning it can control steering, braking and accelerating simultaneously under some circumstances but the driver must still be in control at all times. The 2019 Nissan Rogue is an affordable compact SUV which comes standard with the Intelligent Mobility driver assist features including ProPilot Assist on SV trims and higher. ProPilot Assist is an advanced cruise control system that will follow the car ahead according to a preset distance and can bring the vehicle to a full stop if necessary. 

Driver Assist Features 

  • Rear Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection
  • Rear Automatic Braking with Rear Sonar System
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Blind Spot Warning
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • High Beam Assist
  • Adaptive Cruise Control

2019 Nissan Rogue Starting MSRP: $24,920

Find Local Discounts on the Nissan Rogue: $24,920

2. Ford Edge

2019 Ford Edgeimage: Ford

The 2019 Ford Edge is Ford's first SUV to get their Co-Pilot360 package of driver-assist features standard. In addition to alerting the driver of potential dangers on their route and automatically braking, the Active Parking Assist and Evasive Steering will physically steer you into a parking spot or steer you around an object to avoid a collision.

Driver Assist Features 

  • Auto High-Beam Headlamps
  • Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking 
  • Lane Keeping System
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Warning with Brake Support
  • Enhanced Active Park Assist
  • Evasive Steering Assist

2019 Ford Edge Starting MSRP: $29,995

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3. Kia Optima 

2019 Kia Optimaimage: Kia

Kia's DRIVEWise Driving Assist system includes the typical alert features like forward collision warning and lane departure warning, but it also adds some unique systems like Traffic Jam Assist and Highway Driving Assist. Traffic Jam Assist tracks the vehicles in front of you in heavy traffic and finds appropriate spaces to maneuver into once it is safe. Highway Driving Assist allows the vehicle to switch lanes on the highway without the driver having to steer, signal or accelerate. The driving assist comes standard across all the 2019 Optima models.

Driver Assist Features 

  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Assist Emergency Braking
  • Blind Spot Detection
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Advanced Smart Cruise Control
  • Highway Driving Assist
  • Traffic Jam Assist

2019 Kia Optima Starting MSRP: $22,990

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4. Toyota Camry

2019 Toyota Camryimage: Toyota

The Toyota Safety Sense package offers the full suite of driver assist features standard on most vehicles. The 2019 Camry gets the essential features across all trims and going with the top XSE model will add Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Control. This system is designed to work in all speeds between 0-110 mph. The full-speed range allows for low-speed following, matching the speed of the vehicle in front, and automatically braking before colliding with a stopped vehicle on the highway.

Driver Assist Features 

  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection
  • Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
  • Automatic High Beams
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
  • Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (standard on the XSE)

2019 Toyota Camry Starting MSRP: $23,945

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5. Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

2019 Golf Alltrack

If you're looking for a vehicle outside of the traditional sedan or crossover segments with excellent driver assist features, the 2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack should be your go-to. In addition to standard features like Lane Keeping Assist and Forward Collision Warning, Volkswagen offers Park Distance Control with Maneuver Braking which can apply emergency brakes to prevent collisions when you're in reverse. If a collision should occur, the Golf Alltrack can automatically come to a stop post-impact thanks to Automatic Post-Collision Braking. This can prevent the chance of a second collision. 

Driver Assist Features 

  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Blind Spot Monitor
  • Lane Assist
  • Park Assist
  • Front Assist
  • Park Distance Control with Maneuver Braking
  • Rear Traffic Alert

2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Starting MSRP: $23,945

Find Local Discounts on the 2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack