By on January 31, 2019

If you read this website regularly, browse automobiles online, or have taken a trip to the dealership within the last couple of years, you’ve probably noticed the countless names applied to driver assistance systems appearing in new cars. It’s the result of automakers wanting proprietary names for these features that they think sound catchy.

Not everyone is a fan. The American Automobile Association (AAA) doesn’t feel that “having twenty unique names for adaptive cruise control and nineteen different names for lane keeping assistance” helps consumers make informed decisions.

According to its own research, AAA claims that advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) were available on 92.7 percent of new vehicles on sale in the United States as of May 2018. That makes them next to impossible for consumers to avoid. Thus, the motor club group feels it’s time for automakers to standardize their naming strategies — if for no other reason than to help preserve our sanity. 

In a study published earlier this month, AAA attempted to break down just how extensive this issue has become. It isn’t just the number of names being thrown around, it’s also the terms used by various brands to describe it.

For example, you might find adaptive cruise control under its most common name, but you also might hear it called Smart Cruise Control, Intelligent Cruise Control, Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Distronic Plus, Traffic-Aware Cruise Control, or something else cooked up by a marketing team.

Worse still is that regulatory bodies and automotive standards organizations such as the NHTSA and SAE even have their own unique terms for some of these technologies. AAA says all this naming inconsistency is basically a monumental disservice to all parties involved, and should be changed.

From AAA:

The intent of this paper is to create a dialog with the automotive industry, safety organizations and legislators about the need for common naming for advanced driver assistance systems. Within this report, AAA is proposing a set of standardized technology names for use in describing advanced safety systems. AAA acknowledges that this is a dynamic environment, and that further input from stakeholders and consumer research will further refine this recommendation.

In establishing a conversation within the industry to strive for a common goal, AAA doesn’t want any dilly-dallying. Based on research data ending in May of 2018, automatic emergency braking was standard on 30.6 percent of all new models, lane keeping assistance reached 13.9 percent, and adaptive cruise control on 11.8 percent. Those numbers shoot up dramatically when you incorporate optional equipment.

Additionally, prices for these features are starting to drop. Twenty automakers have already promised to make systems like automatic emergency braking standard across their product lines by 2022 — “suggesting increasing prevalence of the technologies in the future,” according to AAA.

A large part of the problem is the speed of the technology’s proliferation. Regulatory bodies are having difficulty keeping up and aren’t using consistent naming strategies, either. For example, the NHTSA has used at least three different technology names for automatic emergency braking, including “Dynamic Brake System” and “Collision Imminent Braking.”

Granted, not all of these technologies incorporate the same hardware of function identically. But they share common objectives, which AAA thinks should be enough to bind them under a single name.

Honestly, we don’t mind a few rogue names for certain technologies, but there really are too many to contend with right now. Looking through the 34 brands sold in the United States, AAA found that automakers use twenty different names for adaptive cruise control, nineteen for lane keeping assist, nineteen for blind sport warning, eighteen for automatic high beams, fourteen for rear cross traffic warnings, and twelve for parking assist.

There are also ADAS packages that bundle a lot of this technology together. But these also use proprietary names. For example, Ford has a “Safe and Smart Package,” Mazda has “i-ACTIVSENSE,” and Tesla has “Enhanced Autopilot.” While a relatively small sample taken from the industry, they’re indicative of the whole. None of these packages offer the same number of features and their names don’t actually indicate what they might entail.

While AAA claims automakers can totally reserve the right to choose their own system and package names, it offered up a list of proposed terms it would like to see become standard, urging automakers to at least incorporate them into manuals and window stickers. It also provides a list of proposed terms for the industry to mull over.

You can read the full study here if you’re curious about AAA’s recommended naming strategy, or if you just want to how many different monikers automakers use for the various ADAS technologies.

[Image: Mazda]

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14 Comments on “AAA: There’s Too Many Driver Assistance Tech Names...”

  • avatar

    You know, if I walk into a car dealer and start to feel stupid about not knowing much about all the new driver assist equipment I’m going to turn around and walk out. I’m beginning to think there might be some customer push back if they start to feel overwhelmed by all this. Car companies should maybe consider simplifying new tech for old customers

  • avatar

    Most of them can be quite succinctly described as Driver Incompetence Compensator.

    • 0 avatar

      “Driver Incompetence Compensator”

      Belief in which has put lots of people in ditches the past few days and is why I’ve now been waiting 7 hours for a tow truck.

  • avatar

    My favorite part of pricing out a new car on a brand’s website is looking at the thousands of dollars I would absolutely never need to spend on any of that garbage.

  • avatar

    This is actually a really good idea. At this point everyone knows what ABS and DRL are, which allows you to compare features between cars. But the OEMs know this which is why they all name their systems differently – they want confusion, they do not want a level playing field. How else are they going to charge more for the same thing?

    One of the interesting parts of my ‘Vette ownership has been learning all the GM speak. For example the key fob is called an RKE for Remote Keyless Entry. Backup camera? Nope I have an RVC (Reverse Vision Camera). AFM? that is Active Fuel Management otherwise known as cylinder deactivation. HSA? DIC? OLM? RAP? ETS? You need a secret decoder ring just to drive a car these days!

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget my personal GM fave, Twilight Sentinel (auto headlamps). When I first came across that term in some auto literature when I was about 12, I still remember having to pull down my dad’s old print dictionary to look up what “sentinel” meant. I’d never seen that word before.

  • avatar

    “AAA: There’s Too Much Driver Assistance Tech”


  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    My car has DVD navigation – that I’ve never used. It also has a lapsed OnStar thing – that I’ve never used. My truck has satellite radio – that I’ve never used. Both cars have old-bones Cruise Control – that I’ve never used, in either of them. Strangely, I’ve never had a crash, or even a fender-bender, in 32 years of driving. I did get a speeding ticket back in 1986 that would get me three years in the electric chair ( on ‘sizzle’ ) these days, but I paid it. I don’t think that any of this technology would have prevented that, anyway.

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