Consumer groups, safety experts recommend standardizing names for advanced driver aids

If you’ve been car shopping lately, you’re probably aware that most new models have at least a few advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Tech like automatic emergency braking and forward collision warnings are table stakes to compete in today’s auto market, but a group of safety and consumer experts feel that the market is clouded with confusing buzzwords instead of clear descriptions. 

A team of people from six organizations made its case for standardizing the names of advanced driver assistance technologies. Experts from AAA, Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, the National Safety Council, PAVE, and SAE International devised this list of terms that aim to clarify and simplify the sometimes confusing world of driver assistance tech. The group’s recommendations cover the significant safety and driver assistance systems that most of us have heard of now, such as blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, backup cameras, and lane departure warnings.

While many, or even most of the advanced driver aids on the market today, do the same things, many have names that don’t fully explain what they are and what they do. A great example is Volkswagen’s suite of driver aids, where titles like Front Assist, Emergency Assist, and Lane Assist don’t explain functionality as clearly as terms like automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings. And the term Tesla Autopilot has long been accused of confusing, or even deceiving, consumers into thinking the system is more than a basic driver assistance suite when it is not.

The group notes that they don’t intend to replace automakers’ safety tech packages and says that it is instead focused on the individual features themselves. In other words, naming the group of features like Toyota Safety Sense or Honda Sensing is fine, but renaming blind spot monitoring or forward collision warning is not.

While this report may cause some automakers to reconsider their positions on naming safety equipment, it’s unlikely to cause a seismic shift in how the industry names features. The influence of marketing departments on technical features has been a thing since the dawn of time, so it’s difficult to imagine the practice will stop here. Companies (sometimes) change when laws change, so a significant shift in naming conventions may require legal intervention.   

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