Photo: Alexander Koerner (Getty)

If you’ve perused the features of a new car lately, chances are you’ve found something you’re not totally familiar with. What the hell is this “pedestrian protection” system? Why does this car have a “lane sway warning” but not an “alertness assist”? AAA is getting just as frustrated with all of the absurdly named driver assistance systems that keep popping up in just about every new car as you.

AAA has finally done the dirty work that most of us are too lazy to put together: they’ve done a comprehensive study of all of the driver assist features in cars on the market and grouped all of the different names into more descriptive headers in hopes that the auto industry will implement a standard naming system.

According to AAA’s findings, of the 34 automakers studied, there are currently 20 different names for adaptive cruise control systems, 19 for lane keeping assistance and blind spot warnings, 18 for automatic high beams—and a whole hell of a lot more.

Here’s just a selection of the most confusing names they’ve found:

Adaptive Cruise Control

  • Distance assist
  • Distance pilot
  • High-speed dynamic radar cruise control
  • Distronic plus

Collision Mitigation

  • City safety
  • Active safe
  • Pedestrian protection
  • Evasive steering assist

Surround View Camera

  • Multi-terrain monitor
  • Bird’s eye view camera
  • Intelligent view around monitor

While many different technologies are just different combinations of the same basic words (i.e. advanced smart cruise control, smart cruise control, all-speed dynamic cruise control) that let you know, basically, what you’re looking for, some of these tech names are pretty counter-intuitive. A normal person wouldn’t guess that “distance pilot” was another name for adaptive cruise control, nor would they easily know that distance pilot is a Mercedes term that uses a radar to judge the speed of the car in front and follow it at a distance of their choice.

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So who cares if there’s so many names? Well, the point of the study is to push for name standardization. That’ll enable customers to know exactly what kind of tech they’re looking at and then compare it directly to another vehicle. It’ll also make it easier to craft and implement universal safety regulations.

Standardization is also going to become more important as we keep exploring the world of autonomous features and electric vehicles. The industry is being introduced to tons of new tech at an extraordinary rate. Having a simple naming system means that these new cars can be evaluated more accurately and their tech understood more comprehensively. 

As the AAA study notes, a lot of manufacturers offer adaptive driver assistance packages, like Ford’s Safe and Smart Package or Mercedes-Benz’s Intelligent Drive. It’s not clear whether or not automakers actually oppose the idea of a universal naming system to advanced technology, but a lot of them seem to be enjoying the freedom of having something different than everyone else. AAA isn’t opposed to the package option—they just want the tech those packages are composed of to be given simple names that everyone can recognize.

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You can read the full AAA study here for a deeper dive into the different naming systems and frequency of implementation in modern cars. Anyway, dump the brands, figure out names we can all understand. 

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