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Simpler names for car safety features are on the way


Many drivers have no idea which safety systems their cars have, or what they can do, thanks to a confusing muddle of names automakers use. Buyers want to be safe, frequently paying thousands of dollars for optional advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, but the lack of standard names makes it hard to compare one vehicle to another.

“ADAS features are increasingly common, but there’s lots of misinformation based on names that don’t make their purpose or function clear,” AAA director of automotive engineering and industry relations Greg Brannon said.

According to AAA, automakers use 20 different names for adaptive cruise control, which uses radar and other sensors to automatically maintain distance from the vehicle ahead, accelerate and brake on the highway. There are 40 different names for automatic emergency braking, which slows or stops a vehicle without the driver’s intervention when a collision is inevitable.

The profusion of names — some reasonably intuitive, others as spacey as “Distronic” — makes it hard for shoppers to compare safety systems. It can also lead people to overestimate their vehicle’s capabilities. I get emails from people who think help staying in their lanes means their car can drive itself. IT DOESN’T. Keep your hands on the wheel.

Organizations including automakers, Consumer Reports, AAA, JD Power, the National Safety Council, U.S. Department of Transportation and the Society of Automotive Engineers are working to end the confusion.





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