Here’s a major step forward in helping car buyers understand the meaning of car technology buzzwords, especially the terms for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). This is a list of 19 terms primarily for single safety features that have described in as many as 40 different ways by various automakers. An industry-affiliated consortium has agreed on terms for 19 ADAS terms such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking.
Most terms are for single pieces of technology. Nothing stops an automaker from employing a unique, company-specific umbrella term for a collection of multiple technologies, such as Ford Co-Pilot 360 or Nissan Safety Shield, says Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, one of the groups that got the effort underway. The others are AAA, JD Power & Associates, and the National Safety Council.
Same Feature, Dozens of Different Names
Say you want a car that has a basic safety package of driver assists. How can you compare features when they have different names, and a dealership sales rep might not know, or knows and doesn’t tell you, that dynamic cruise control (more below) is just as good as adaptive cruise control? Now there’s a list of common features. It’s voluntary on the part of automakers. But third parties, including data aggregation companies that provide features information, will start using similar terms.
Here are the common terms that these groups will use going forward:
How Bad Is the Confusion?
A year ago an AAA automotive engineering team looked at 34 car brands sold in this US. This is how many different terms were used to describe common driver-assist features.
|AAA 2019 Survey of ADAS Features|
|Automatic Emergency Braking||40|
|Adaptive Cruise Control||20|
|Surround View Camera||20|
|Lane Keeping Assistance||19|
|Blind Spot Warning||19|
|Automatic High Beams||18|
|Rear Cross Traffic Warning||15|
|Semi-Automated Parking Assist||12|
|Forward Collision Warning||8|
|Night Vision and Pedestrian Detection||5|
|ADAS = Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems|
“We believe a united message [on names] could propel the industry forward,” says Kristen Kolodge, executive director for driver interaction and HMI at JD Power. Power’s involvement is doubly important: It does multiple car surveys that shape buyer attitudes, and a 2019 merger with Autodata Systems and its Chrome-branded solutions provides data on individual cars to automakers and major websites that report and cars and provide buying information. Now there’s a common language to describe what’s on each of the 17 million light vehicles sold in the US each year.
Our Take: Good Start. More Needed.
At Extreme Tech, we’ve described ADAS features using terminology that maps closely to the conclusions of the ADAS-naming consortium; often in reviews, we also cite the automaker’s own term. We’ve always used adaptive cruise control, the same as the consortium recommended. We’ve used blind-spot detection and the consortium’s blind-spot warning is close enough.
There are a couple of issues. The consortium uses two terms, lane-keeping assistance and lane-departure warning, to describe three different situations, from least to most helpful driver assistance:
Lane departure warning. When your crosses over a lane marking (or just before), you’re warned. This term is clear and its functionality maps to what the consortium calls it.
Lane keep (or keeping) assist. We’d say it’s like Pong for cars. When your car reaches the boundary marker for your lane, the steering pushes you back into the lane. Most of the time. Occasionally, the car keeps edging out-of-lane on a sharply curved road.
Lane centering assist. Real simple: The car always centers itself in the lane. (Except on really curvy roads where you shouldn’t be using LCA.) As long as you keep your hands lightly on the wheel — or in some cases, an eye tracker sees that you’re looking at the road — the car stays centered. Add adaptive cruise control and you’ve got SAE Level 2 self-driving, or what the consortium calls active driving assistance.
Similarly, adaptive cruise control covers several differences in functionality. Stop-and-go or full-range ACC takes the car all the way down to 0 mph and then back up to speed. At a light, you may have to press the gas pedal or hit a resume button. That’s the best ACC. Some older cars have ACC that goes down to 20 mph and then cuts out because the radar can’t focus on cars that may be close ahead in dense traffic, and that makes partial ACC unhelpful in stop-and-go traffic. And of the cars that stop and go, including some FCA products, they disengage ACC if the car is stopped for more than three seconds.
Forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking have nuances, too: on the highway versus in-town FCW (and also emergency braking), and detection of cars versus pedestrians, versus detection of pedestrians at night.
Dynamic Cruise Control Isn’t Active Cruise Control
For me, the confusion hit home last year when a neighbor dropped by in a new BMW X5 with a $68,000 list price (and that’s modestly optioned, with only $7,000 worth of extras). Her adaptive cruise control almost ran her into the car in front while on the interstate, she said. I went through the owner’s manual, checked the Monroney (the window sticker listing standard and optional features), and it eventually dawned on me: While some automakers use dynamic cruise control as a synonym for adaptive cruise control, as does Wikipedia, on her Bimmer “dynamic” means conventional cruise control. So no auto-pacing behind the car in front, but the car does slow down going around curves, then speeds up again. So it’s dynamic that way.
What my friend wanted but didn’t get – and this becomes linguistically confusing – is that while our president uses the best words, Germans string together the longest words. If you want ACC on many BMWs, you don’t want BMW Dynamic Cruise Control, nor do you merely want Active Driving Assistant (six ADAS features standard on the X5 but not including ACC). Instead, you want the Driving Assistance Professional Package, which incorporates Active Driving Assistant Pro and Extended Traffic Jam Assistant for Limited Access Highways. DAPP incorporating ADA and ETJA/LAH is a $1,700 bundle of very useful technologies that lets the car change lanes automatically, avoid side collisions, and help you maneuver in low-speed traffic.
But that’s how you get adaptive cruise control in this BMW. And never mind that ACC comes standard – no extra charge – on a $20,555 Toyota Corolla L. Where the feature is called – wait for it – dynamic radar cruise control, except in this case DRCC means ACC, all part of what the company calls Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0).
And this is where the consortium-for-simplicity comes in. It wants every automaker to call ACC adaptive cruise control. It doesn’t want to tell BMW it has to make ACC standard (even though BMW really should) and it doesn’t want to stop BMW from saying DAPP, ADA or ETJA/LAH, nor to stop Toyota from using TSS. But it is suggesting Toyota should move on from dynamic radar to active cruise control.
Consumer Reports, the most influential voice when it comes to promoting safety or evaluating reliability, has more tricks up its sleeve. For 2020 and its annual auto issue, it is raising the bar on what a car must do to be eligible for CR‘s Top Pick designation (the best car in each of 10 segments): It must be CR-recommended, and come standard with forward collision warning (FCW), with automatic emergency braking (AEB), and for 2020 it must come with pedestrian detection be standard and tied to AEB. CR’s Fisher also says the features have to be standard across the board for a model. No fair leaving it off the entry trim line that has an attractive price and only amounts to 5 percent of the model’s sales.
CR told automakers in advance about the change in Top Pick criteria for 2020. The upshot, Fisher says: The number of models that now have pedestrian detection, standard, on all trim lines, shot up significantly. Critics have argued the accuracy of pedestrian detection technology is hit or miss – so to speak – and doesn’t always work, especially in dim light. Against that, Fisher says, most advances in car safety protect the occupants, not pedestrians, so CR wants to prod the automakers.
- Consumer Reports Picks Its Top Car Brands
- EVs Finally Get Some Love from the Most Important JD Power Study
- Are Auto Shows a Goner in the Wake of Coronavirus?