Heavy rain is a motorist’s enemy, leading to poor visiblity and treacherous road conditions. As the monsoon season once again threatens to turn our roads to streams and confident drivers to hapless passengers, we take a look at automotive technology that can help us overcome wet, slippery roads:
1. All wheel drive: two driven wheels are perfectly fine in good road conditions, whether its the relative safety of front-wheel drive or the sportier feel of rear-wheel drive. But when road grip is at a premium, having four wheels that can transfer torque to the road allows a car to be more stable and the driver, more confident behind the wheel. Not all four-wheel drive systems are the full-time type, aka all-wheel drive. Many propel two wheels most of the time, engaging the other pair only when needed.
Examples of cars that have it: many SUV and crossover models, usually as an option. Subaru offers all-wheel drive across its lineup, except for the BRZ sports car.
2. Traction control and electronic stability program. Traction control helps to prevent a tire breaking its grip with the road when power is abruptly fed to it. Electronic stability programs can brake a particular wheel to help direct a car back on course, when it threatens to spin out of control. It’s never a good idea to go too fast in wet weather, but when you’re caught unaware, these could help you regain control of your car.
Examples of cars that have it: Many executive-class sedans, SUVs and crossovers have this feature as standard.
3. Automatic wipers: a simple feature but one that’s hard to do without. A sensor activates the wipers and adjusts their speed according to the rainfall. Allows the driver to concentrate on the road instead of adjusting the controls.
Examples of cars that have it: Compact cars and crossovers are beginning to include this feature. The wipers in the Honda Accord and Pilot also adjust for vehicle speed and activate with brake release.
4. Anti-lock braking system: Drivers can find it difficult to judge the amount of grip on a wet road, so the electronic brain of the ABS system helps by keeping the tires from locking up and skidding.
Examples of cars that have it: All but the most basic models should have this by now—it’s a must for safety in the wet and dry.
5. Air suspension: When you need a few centimeters more of ground clearance to traverse a flooded street, the ability to raise the car electronically with the push of a button can be a godsend.
Examples of cars that have it: Higher-end SUVs like the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne can go in stilts when pushed up into Offroad mode.
6. Switchable drive mode: You can never have too much power, except perhaps when there’s hardly any grip on the road. That’s when it’s useful to have a switch that can reduce power and make the engine less sensitive when you press the accelerator. When the rain pours, it’s time to switch to Economy mode.
Examples of cars that have it: Relatively powerful cars and SUVs (250hp) usually have a drive mode selector to manage the output. The Ford Mustang has a dedicated Ice/Wet mode to tame its 420 horses when the roads are wet.
7. Navigation system: The best way to survive dangers like flooded streets is to avoid them altogether, and this is where connected navigation apps come in. Phone apps like Waze can alert drivers of flooded areas. Be careful in following all directions, though—a street clear of traffic can sometimes mean that it’s actually impassable.
Examples of cars that have it: Many car audio systems have Bluetooth functionality that can at least let you navigate handsfree through the car’s audio system. Some cars like the Suzuki Ciaz have Android-based audio head units that include apps like Waze.
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