Car Safety System Names Like Autopilot Are Too Confusing: Report

Consumer Reports asked more than 35,000 owners their opinions about vehicle safety features’ names and how helpful those systems were.

byAaron Cole| PUBLISHED Dec 22, 2022 10:49 AM
Car Safety System Names Like Autopilot Are Too Confusing: Report
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If you don’t know the difference between blind-spot monitors and lane departure warnings, you’re not alone. You should be forgiven if active lane control and lane keep assist sound the same to you, even though they’re not. And that goes without saying that Autopilot isn’t, and Pilot Assist is, but not from the same automaker. 

That’s why this month, Consumer Reports called on automakers to clarify their advanced driver assist features in the name of not only clearing confusion between the systems but also encouraging drivers to understand those lifesaving tech suites and use them more often. 

“Steering wheels have become cluttered with unrecognizable symbols to operate ADAS features, which drivers have to somehow distinguish and understand while they’re out on the road,” Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ senior director of auto testing, said in a statement. 

GM's Super Cruise/ The Drive

The survey, which asked more than 35,000 vehicle owners about their use, comprehension, and satisfaction with their vehicles equipped with ADAS systems, found that drivers preferred customization of the features but also were unsure what their cars were trying to tell them. Multiple displays, warnings, and sounds often confuse drivers, who may disable the safety systems later. 

“Frequent false alarms or annoying beeps can be minimized, or eliminated, by allowing the driver to make sensitivity adjustments. And the type of alert should also be capable of being tailored to the driver’s preference,” said Kelly Funkhouser, manager of vehicle technology for Consumer Reports

The firm also suggested that in-car displays offer more information about why systems may not be enabled—such as for weather or speed—or why features may be suddenly disabled. Callouts on infotainment screens could be helpful, and information from automakers on how to use their systems would also be a plus. 

Additionally, Consumer Reports recommended automakers adopt a streamlined naming process for driver-assistance features instead of trademarked jargon or marketing terms. Those standard systems would be forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane centering assistance, lane keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control. 

So, if you’re one of many drivers who’s confused by active lane control and lane-keeping assistance, you’re not alone. But you shouldn’t be alone in using the important safety systems whenever possible. 

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