Words such as ‘Autopilot’ could be sidelined under a proposal for showroom names to more accurately reflect the operation and limitations of safety technology.
Safety groups in the USA are pushing for improved clarity on the names of advanced safety features — and how they operate — to make life easier for car buyers.
As the push towards self-driving cars gathers pace, a high-powered coalition — led by the American Automobile Association, and including the SAE body of engineers — wants more clarity through the universal adoption of ‘common-sense’ words such as ‘driver re-engagement system’.
It began the drive for plain language in 2019 with an initial list of 20 standardised names, including adaptive cruise control, forward automatic emergency braking, and automatic emergency steering.
This was endorsed by the US Department of Transportation in 2020.
Now it has expanded its list of general driver-assistance topics to six, with the addition of driver monitoring systems.
Under the topic, its newly-added terms are ‘lane centring assistance’, ‘indirect driver-monitoring system’, ‘direct driver-monitoring system’ and ‘driver re-engagement system’.
The group wants car companies and other key automotive stakeholders to adopt its recommendations for universal terms, according to a story first reported by Automotive News in the USA.
It is also proposing “vital consumer education on the benefits, limitations and capabilities” of advanced driver-assistance systems.
The group is not recommending the outright banning of marketing terms such as ‘Autopilot’, but believes its universal wording should be used on vehicle ‘window stickers’, and in owner’s manuals and other marketing materials.
Even so, Tesla was banned in Germany in July 2020 from using the term ‘Autopilot’ when advertising its semi-autonomous driving technology, after a Munich court ruled the claims were “misleading consumers”.
“Using the term ‘Autopilot’ and other phrases suggest the cars were technically able to drive completely autonomously,” the court said in a statement.
“Additionally, it is claimed that would be legal in Germany, which isn’t the case.”
Beyond Tesla, names for advanced safety features vary widely across manufacturers. For example, autonomous emergency braking is branded by Mazda as Smart City Brake Support, by Hyundai as Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, and by Toyota as Pre-Collision Safety System.
Paul Gover has been a motoring journalist for more than 40 years, working on newspapers, magazines, websites, radio and television. A qualified general news journalist and sports reporter, his passion for motoring led him to Wheels, Motor, Car Australia, Which Car and Auto Action magazines. He is a champion racing driver as well as a World Car of the Year judge.