The purpose of front and rear bumpers on automobiles is self-explanatory: at low impact speeds, bumpers are supposed to absorb energy and prevent body damage to a vehicle. In that regard, they’re passive safety devices, coming into play only when a low-speed accident occurs.

The best kind of bumper, then, would be an active one that prevented you from having a collision in the first place. Enter Cadillac’s Front and Rear Automatic Braking system, which acts as a “virtual bumper” to prevent accidents instead of just minimizing accident damage.

Available on ATS, XTS and SRX models as part of the optional Driver Assist Package, Cadillac’s system relies on a series of radar, camera and ultrasonic sensors to detect an imminent crash. If a pending frontal collision is detected, the system can automatically provide maximum braking effort, with or without driver involvement.

The same is true in reverse. If the car detects an object behind it, it can apply the brakes to avoid a rear collision, potentially preventing thousands of low-speed parking lot crashes each year. Drivers can over-ride the system by pressing the accelerator, but only after the car has come to a stop.

The Driver Assist Package is available on Performance and Premium trim models of ATS, XTS and SRX only. The package also includes blind zone alert and adaptive cruise control functions, as well as a heads up display on ATS and XTS models.

XTS models equipped with the Driver Awareness and Driver Assist packages also get Cadillac’s Safety Alert Seat, which can blast though the fog of the most inattentive driver by providing a tactile alert (seat bottom vibrations) when a potential crash is detected.

If it makes roads and drivers safer, we’re all for it. Now if only someone would invent a way to eliminate texting and hand-held cell phone use in all cars, we’d finally stop lecturing you on their dangers.