Study: Too Many Names for Safety Tech

93 percent of new vehicles equipped with advanced safety tech. Why no standardization?

Traffic Safety

A person using the cruise control in their car.DENVER (Feb. 12, 2019) – Here's a question for you: What's the difference between "Adaptive Cruise Control" and "Smart Cruise Control?" What about "Dynamic Radar Cruise Control?" Or "Traffic-Aware Cruise Control ," for good measure? If you can't answer, don't fret: They're the same thing – advanced car safety systems designed to adjust your vehicle's speed to maintain a safe distance from the cars in front of you. All told, there are 20 distinct names for that same technology, leading to significant confusion among new car buyers – per a new report from AAA.  

What's in a name? Well, according to previous AAA research, four-in-ten Americans misjudge partially automated driving systems' abilities based on their names alone. That can lead to deadly consequences on the roadway.

Cruise control isn't the only source of confusion. "Automatic Emergency Braking," a technology that 20 automakers plan to include as standard by 2022, goes by as many as 40 different names depending on the manufacturer. And even something as straightforward as "Automatic High Beams" is marketed by nearly 20 different unique names – including "Adaptive Highbeam Assist," "Intellibeam Headlamps," and "Dynamic Light System."

"In dramatic relief, this new research points to the need to standardize the names for these important, and increasingly common, safety features," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "We all agree on the importance of seat belts, in part because we've all agreed to call them by a common name. For safety's sake, that same standard needs to apply to these emerging technologies."

Per AAA research, at least one advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) feature is available on 92.7 percent of new vehicles available in the United States. Common ADAS features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning, and Automatic Emergency Braking are available on at least 80 percent of vehicles in every popular vehicle category. 

Despite that, even industry regulators and watchdogs, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International), have all used different technology names to describe systems with the same underlying technology.

Terminology Review
AAA's Automotive Engineering team examined 34 vehicle brands sold in the United States to identify the number of unique names manufacturers use to market ADAS. AAA found the following regarding the number of terms used to describe a single ADAS feature:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking – 40 unique names
  • Adaptive Cruise Control – 20 unique names
  • Surround View Camera – 20 unique names
  • Lane Keeping Assistance – 19 unique names
  • Blind Spot Warning – 19 unique names
  • Automatic High Beams – 18 unique names
  • Rear Cross Traffic Warning  – 15 unique names
  • Driver Monitoring  – 13 unique names
  • Semi-Automated Parking Assist  – 12 unique names
  • Forward Collision Warning – 8 unique names
  • Night Vision & Pedestrian Detection – 5 unique names

These technologies affect all road users. Automatic Emergency Braking, for example, comes standard on 30.6 percent of 2018 model year vehicles. And the technology is accessible to most new car buyers – multiple ADAS features are often sold as part of an optional technology bundle which costs, on average, $1,950. The average cost of a new vehicle is $36,113.

Given the likelihood that these and other technologies will soon be commonplace on all vehicles, and the potentially devastating consequences of confusion on the roadways, AAA Colorado encourages automakers, regulators and policymakers to adopt a standard naming system. Until standardized names are adopted, it is critical that motorists read their owners manual to become familiar with the ADAS systems on their cars. You can find our full report and recommendations here

About AAA Colorado

More than 685,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's most-trusted advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit