CHATHAM, Mass. – The year just concluded brought 52 disparate vehicles for a TBR Drive, from a Mini Convertible to a Nissan Frontier mid-size pickup to a Ford Transit commercial van, all of which featured automatic-emergency braking (AEB) and a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) which would have been virtually non-existent just a few years ago..

In the two-and-a-half years of TBR Drives, we have reported both AEB and ADAS becoming more prevalent regardless of the vehicle’s price or market segment. There was a time when commercially oriented vehicles like the Ford Transit  and pickup trucks could not be had with modern safety and convenience features, but those days are over.

As we wrote about the Transit:

Also beyond expectations was the standard Ford Co-Pilot360™ collection of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) including: Post-Collison Braking, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, (AEB), Auto High-Beam Headlamps, Lane-Keeping System and Forward Collison Warning.

Upping the safety and driving help were several additional features added to the Ford Transit I drove. The most helpful in driving this 220-inch-long van without side windows was the Blind Spot Information System (Ford calls it BLIS®) with rear cross-traffic alert which greatly reduced any anxiety caused by trying to maneuver in parking lots and on multi-lane roads.

Another helpful Ford Transit feature was the Enhanced Parking Assist which can help find an adequate parallel or perpendicular parking spot and then “drive” the Transit Cargo Van into the space. And it works, and it is easy to use – push one button on the dashboard, activate the turn signal, step on the brake, shift into reverse and the truck does the rest.

Also on the job were advanced cruise control, front/rear split-view cameras and front/rear parking aids (which warned when I got to close to objects while navigating the Stop&Shop parking lot).

Driver aids, developed as manufacturers move towards self-driving vehicles, or at least systems which can take over many of the driver’s responsibilities, continue to gain in acceptance and maturity. The U.S. government has gotten 20 auto makers to agree to have AEB standard in 95 percent of all vehicles produced after Sept. 1, 2022, and 12 manufacturers have already met that goal (Audi, BMW, Ford, Honda, Hyundai/Genesis, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota/Lexus, Volkswagen and Volvo).

By the numbers, the 52 TBR Drives examined three all-new minivans, seven pickup trucks, one commercial van, 11 sedans/station wagons/coupes and 30 sport utility vehicles (SUVs). These ran the gamut of size and shapes within these classifications, from the small SUV Hyundai Venue to the large full-size pickup Ford F-250 Super Duty.

Powertrains encompassed (six) hybrids like the Toyota Sienna minivan and first hybrid pickup, the Ford F-150; (two) diesels like the GMC Sierra 1500; (two) battery-electric SUVs like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, and 42 traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

Of the latter, we learned fun, efficiency and value could be found in everything from a three-cylinder Chevrolet Trailblazer  to the 3.3-liter turbocharged V6 of the updated Genesis G70 to the 603-horsepower four-liter V8 under the hood of the Mercedes-Benz AMG 63 GLE S Coupe.

The pandemic may have changed in-door activities and group gatherings, but it had no impact on getting out onto the open road. Driving enjoyment, especially earlier in the year before people began returning to the workplace, was increased due to a dearth of traffic in the Northeast. Driving along the I-95 corridor between Massachusetts and New Jersey was a somewhat relaxed, stress-free endeavor; very different than the pre-pandemic norm.

New-vehicle introductions slowed during 2021 and delays are expected during the coming year, primarily due to a shortage of computer chips, but TBR Drive is hoping to explore such newcomers as the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning full-size pickup and Ford Maverick hybrid mid-size pickup; Cadillac’s first EV, the Lyriq crossover; the Genesis G80 luxury EV sedan, and Nissan Z sports car.