Value has long been a hallmark for Toyotas, and their features-per-dollar appeal increases as Toyota Safety Sense (or TSS for short) technologies spread across the automaker’s lineup. Toyota Safety Sense bundles modern driver aids and automated safety systems. These features help ease the work you do behind the wheel and can intervene in dangerous road situations. Nearly every 2021 Toyota model includes TSS. Here’s how TSS works, the features it includes, and which models come with it.
How Does Toyota Safety Sense Work?
Toyota Safety Sense works using hardware and software integrated into the vehicle. In terms of hardware, a camera mounted at the top of the windshield behind the rearview mirror provides a view of the road ahead. That’s supplemented by a radar sensor, typically positioned in the grille or front bumper. There may also be radar sensors at the rear of the vehicle that, along with other sensors, monitors the vehicle’s surroundings. You have control over some TSS features, while others remain poised in the background to react in emergency situations.
What Features Does Toyota Safety Sense Include?
Toyota Safety Sense includes features you may use on a regular basis and some that you’ll ideally never have to.
Automatic emergency braking does what its name describes: automatically applies the brakes in the event of an emergency. Whether by a lapse in focus or unpredictable movement by other road users, you may find yourself heading toward a collision. First, TSS will provide audible and visual cues to prompt you to apply the brakes. If you don’t, automatic emergency braking activates if it detects an impending crash. With TSS it detects vehicles and pedestrians, while in some Toyota models it detects cyclists, too.
On the freeway, adaptive cruise control will be one of your favorite TSS features. It automatically maintains a following distance from the vehicle ahead of you. If you’re cruising at a set speed and traffic ahead slows down, adaptive cruise control will slow your vehicle down to match it. As speeds pick back up, the vehicle automatically accelerates toward your set speed again. Note that most new Toyota models have full-speed adaptive cruise control, which can keep the vehicle moving as traffic creeps along at low speeds and even bring it to a complete stop. However, in some older models it only works at speeds above 25 mph. Below that you’ll need to take full control.
TSS also has lane departure warning and lane tracing assist. Lane departure warning detects if the vehicle is unintentionally crossing lane lines. If so, it cues you to steer back into the lane with audible and visual alerts. Most newer Toyotas can also provide steering assistance to help the vehicle to resume its position in the lane. Models with steering assistance also have lane tracing assist. Lane tracing assist keeps the car centered in its lane and helps steer the vehicle when the road curves. It’s like a helping hand that does some—but not all—of the steering for you.
TSS also includes a few simple functions intended to help on everyday drives. One of those is road sign recognition, which can detect speed limit, yield, do not enter, and stop signs. It’ll show that sign on your Toyota’s dashboard display as a reminder if you missed it on the roadside.
Another convenience is automatic high-beams, which turns off the high-beams if it detects the headlights or taillights of another vehicle to avoid dazzling those drivers. When the road is clear, the high-beams switch back on.
Is Toyota Safety Sense Worth It?
Considering that TSS safety suite features would have been expensive extras on luxury cars not long ago, we’re impressed that Toyota includes them in so many of its vehicles. TSS is a great companion in everyday driving. However, Toyota isn’t the only mainstream automaker who can boast that it has such features. Honda, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia, and others include or offer nearly all the same technologies. Compared to those equivalents, TSS isn’t our favorite. The adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist aren’t the most refined, sometimes behaving too trepidatiously for our liking. Fortunately, we haven’t had much of a need to assess its automatic emergency braking, but the automatic high-beams and road sign recognition seem to work consistently. We wouldn’t choose a Toyota specifically because it has TSS. However, if there’s a Toyota model you want to make your own, TSS is a terrific bonus.
What Toyota Models Have TSS?
With a few exceptions, every model in Toyota’s lineup includes the full suite of TSS driver assist and active safety features. Popular 2021 models like the Prius, Corolla, Camry, RAV4, and Sienna have all the TSS features listed above. Many of these vehicles additionally offer blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as extras depending on trim.
Body-on-frame trucks and SUV models like the Tundra, Tacoma, 4Runner, and Sequoia do not have full-speed adaptive cruise control; it doesn’t work below 25 mph in these vehicles.
Sporty rear-wheel-drive Toyota models have limited safety features. The manual-transmission 86 has essentially none, although the Supra is equipped with automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and automatic high-beams. The Supra can be optionally equipped with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
For the latest safety specifications and information on the Toyota you’re interested in, check out our Toyota Buyer’s Guide.