Rear cross-traffic alerts or RCTA is a safety system that notifies a driver, usually with an alarm or lights, to oncoming vehicles as you are reversing. It is engaged any time your car is placed into reverse and is best used for when your vision is obstructed. Like many driving aids, the system should not replace driver care, but rather be used as a tool that can be used to assist you in avoiding unnecessary accidents.
The RTCA operates most often in conjunction with the blind spot warning system, BSW, and can be coupled with the rear automatic emergency braking (REAB) system. When working these three components, can detect, notify, and stop the car to prevent an accident. It can be thought of like a giant invisible airbag for the rear of your car, you want it protected, well the RCTA and other systems have got you covered.
What Does the Research Say About Rear Cross Traffic Alert?
In a Monash University study on vehicle safety technologies for light and heavy vehicles, they found that:
In comparison with wide Field of View (FOV) Rear Vision systems, the use of RCTA systems reduced backing encroachments into the path of approaching traffic by up to 44%...
This shows that there are substantial improvements to vehicular safety when you own a car that has RCTA systems installed. If you are searching for a car and the choice is between one without RCTA or one with RCTA, then it’s a fairly safe bet the one with RCTA would not have been involved in a rear-end collision while reversing.
How Does Rear Cross Traffic Alert Work?
RCTA works by using ultrasonic sensors, similar to the blind spot detection systems, that are mounted in most bumper bars. While the blind spot system often only makes use of rear facing sensors, the RCTA systems use sensors that check the side of the vehicle, creating a field of ‘vision’ that is a 180 degree arc at the rear of the car. This allows it to spot oncoming traffic and not just what is directly behind it.
Disadvantages of RCTA Systems
Due to the 180 degree arc, RCTA systems may not be as effective when reversing from angled parking. It is possible that this may cause a false reading on the left side of the car and a blind spot on the right side of the car. The driver needs to be aware of this, especially if they have come too reliant on the system.
The system was designed with car detection in mind. It has yet to be proven as effective against pedestrians, cyclists, and small animals. So, while it is an excellent system the driver still has a duty of care to make sure they are operating the vehicle safely.
How Can You Tell If a Car Has RCTA?
A simple search of the vehicle in question will reveal if the car has an RCTA system installed. If that is not possible look for the visible sensors in the bumper bar, while it may not tell you if the car has RCTA (as the blind spot detection system uses these also), the absence of sensors will indicate if the car lacks the RCTA system.