AAA wants to standardize active safety tech names

January 28, 2019

Shopping for a new car with life-saving active safety tech can be a challenge, and not just because of rapidly evolving technology. Compounding the confusion is that there is no widely accepted name for technologies such as automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors.   

AAA said last week proposed standardized names for every safety technology currently offered today. In a study, AAA looked at 34 car brands and found that their advanced driver assistance systems vary greatly and in some cases could overpromise features for customers. For example, AAA said that systems such as Tesla's Autopilot and Nissan's ProPilot Assist suggest a much higher degree of autonomous driving than the systems are able to deliver. AAA found 40 percent of Americans expect systems with such names to offer fully self-driving capability.

In reality, the technologies can help keep a car centered in its lane and a set distance from the car in front, but they require constant driver attention.

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The most varied term is automatic emergency braking, which can apply the brakes if the system detects an impending collision. AAA found a whopping 40 different name variations between the 34 brands. Adaptive cruise control and surround-view camera systems tied for second with 20 name variations across the 34 brands.

AAA also looked at active lane control (19 variations), blind-spot monitors (19), automatic high-beam headlights (18), rear cross-traffic alerts (15), driver monitoring (13), semi-automated park assist (12), forward-collision warnings (8), and night vision and pedestrian-detection systems (5).

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Some of the features are more prevalent than others. Automatic emergency braking is fitted to about a third of new cars, a figure that has risen steadily as automakers work toward an agreement to make the tech standard on every new vehicle within a few years. The increasing popularity underscores the need to standardize technology names, AAA said. At least one active safety feature was on nearly 93 percent of new cars sold last May, a number that has almost certainly risen.

As for the names AAA suggests, they're fairly cut-and-dry. For example, instead of fancy marketing names like ProPilot, AAA suggests simply "adaptive cruise control" as its official term. However, it will be up to industry regulatory groups to take up proposals and layout standard titles for the technology as it proliferates and even comes standard on many new cars.

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