What’s in a Name? Confusion, if You’re a New Car Owner

Advanced vehicle safety features are marketed under 20 unique names – or more

BOISE – (January 29, 2019) – As they become more commonplace, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), with features like automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance, can reduce crashes and save lives.

But some vehicle owners may not know what to expect when trouble strikes, because according to AAA’s latest research, some features are described by an astonishing 20 unique names or more.

“Car companies use brand names and other terminology to help their ADAS technologies stand out from the crowd,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho. “But that inconsistency can lead to confusion and false expectations – and that’s the last thing we need.”

According to AAA’s research, nearly a third of 2018 model year vehicles offer automatic emergency braking as standard equipment, but most drivers wouldn’t know that off-hand – the technology goes by 40 different names. And 1 in 10 new cars comes equipped with lane keeping assistance and/or adaptive cruise control, but both features have 20 unique names.  At least six other advanced technologies are described by a dizzying supply of synonyms.

“AAA asks the automotive industry to adopt clear verbiage that consumers can use to make an informed purchase decision,” Conde said. “The best place to learn about these safety systems is at the car lot, not while you’re heading down the highway.”

AAA has proposed standardized ADAS terminology that is designed to be simple, specific, and based on system functionality. To that end, the motoring organization has classified the various technologies under the following headings: Automated Driving Tasks, Collision Alerts, Collision Mitigation, Parking Assistance, and Miscellaneous Driving Aids.

System names like Autopilot, ProPilot, and Pilot Assist can also be problematic. In AAA’s previous research, 40 percent of U.S. adults wrongly believed that these systems should be able to drive a vehicle on their own.  Millennials and Gen Xers were especially likely to share that point of view.

“Drivers need to know what they have and how it works so that they can get the full benefit of these life-saving technologies,” Conde said. “Then they won’t rely on them too little, or too much.”