As an automotive journalist who has been driving new cars and covering the industry since anti-lock brakes, side airbags, and stability control were advanced safety systems, it is sometimes difficult to explain all of the latest technology that includes everything from blind spot warnings to automatic braking. A new wave of semi-autonomous driving is here, too.
According to a story by Keith Barry in the April 2020 edition of Consumer Reports, 93 percent of new vehicles offer at least one advanced driver assistance system. Since 2018, there have been 53 percent fewer rear end collisions in vehicles that have automatic emergency braking versus vehicles without it. I assume blind spot warning systems, lane departure warning, and rear automatic braking also have impressive results.
What to call these systems so consumers know how to compare potential purchases is difficult. Working with J.D. Power and the National Safety Council, Consumer Reports proposes 19 terms to be used by the industry and journalists when describing crash avoidance systems. They are explained below, grouped by type.
Driving Control Assistance
Adaptive Cruise Control: Uses radar or cameras to accelerate and brake to keep vehicle a pre-set distance from vehicles in front. Some include stop-and-go capability in traffic.
Lane Keeping Assist: Steering intervention to keep car in its lane.
Active Driving Assistance: Includes systems like Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise that semi-autonomously accelerate, brake, and steer while driver stands by to take control.
Blind Spot Warning: Alerts drivers to vehicles in their rearward side blind spot.
Forward Collision Warnings: Uses radar/cameras to detect a potential collision, then provides an audible and/or visual alert.
Lane Departure Warnings: Monitors lane of travel and alerts driver if vehicle crosses marker lines.
Parking Obstruction Warning: Detects objects in path of vehicle during parking maneuvers.
Rear Cross Traffic Warning: Alerts drivers to vehicles behind vehicle, including approaching vehicles, when maneuvering.
Automatic Emergency Braking: Detects potential collisions and applies the brakes to avoid or minimize impact.
Automatic Emergency Steering: Identifies potential collisions and automatically steers to avoid them.
Rear Automatic Braking: Automatically applies brakes to avoid collisions while reversing.
Active Parking Assistance: Controls steering, and potentially accelerator/brakes, to parallel and/or perpendicular park vehicle.
Remote Parking: Parks vehicle without driver being inside.
Other Driver Assistance Systems
Automatic High Beams: Uses sensors to automatically switch on/off high beams.
Backup Camera: Shows view behind vehicle, and sometimes even trailers, while in reverse.
Driver Monitoring: Monitors driver eye movement, head position, and/or steering inputs to determine if they are alert. Provides visual/audible alerts to regain attention.
Head-up Display: Projects speed, navigation directions, and other information in driver’s forward line of sight.
Night Vision: Uses night vision cameras to projects enhanced images in instrument cluster or on head-up display.
Surround-view Camera: Provides 360-degree “birds-eye” view of vehicle when maneuvering, especially useful in tight parking spaces.
We definitely need a consistent set of terms to describe today’s safety systems, and these seem as good as any. But, as cars evolve to fully drive themselves, I’m sure they’ll only be a start.