Illustration showing common advanced safety features for cars

Consumer Reports has teamed up with several other organizations advocating for automotive safety to develop standardized names for various new advanced safety systems now found on most new cars so that consumers know what they’re getting when shopping for a vehicle.

On Jan. 15, the Department of Transportation (DOT) endorsed this list of standardized names. While this endorsement doesn’t mean that automakers will be forced to use the new names, it does signal the agency’s support for consumer-friendly terminology. 

The suggested names are also designed so that consumers understand the limits of the various driver assistance and convenience features. “Currently, there is variance among manufacturers, and standard language will ensure drivers are aware that these systems are designed to ‘assist,’ not replace, an engaged driver,” a DOT spokesperson said in a statement. 

“The names of these features are all over the map right now, and many of them don’t accurately describe what the feature will do or what drivers should expect,” said Kelly Funkhouser, CR’s head of connected and automated vehicles. “There’s a different name on the website, in the owner’s manual, and then in the menu in the car.”

Currently, 93 percent of new vehicles offer at least one advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), such as automatic emergency braking (AEB) or blind spot warning (BSW). But AAA research shows that consumers may encounter as many as 20 names for a single ADAS feature, which can cause confusion.

CR worked with AAA, J.D. Power, and the National Safety Council to develop specific names for 19 individual ADAS systems.

The goal is for safety organizations, automakers, and journalists covering the automotive industry to adopt these standardized names so that consumers can more easily compare and contrast vehicles.

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For example, Honda calls blind spot warning a “Blind Spot Information System,” while Toyota calls it “Blind Spot Monitor.” On some GM vehicles, it’s called “Lane Change Alert.” A single automaker might use different terms for the same feature on its websites, at dealerships, and in owner’s manuals. As a result, consumers might not understand which features are available on which cars, and risk buying a car without key safety equipment.

“It’s a real struggle to make sure consumers are able to get the safety features they want on their cars when they leave the dealership,” Funkhouser says. “It’s even harder when systems are called different names.”

“It’s important that we all start calling them the same thing,” Funkhouser says. “It will help automakers to advertise their features, dealerships to communicate to consumers, and drivers to have a cohesive understanding of each feature.”

These are the names and definitions of the most common ADAS features. They have been divided into five categories based on their abilities. The list will be refined as new systems are developed.

Driving Control Assistance

Adaptive cruise control: Assists with acceleration and/or braking to maintain a prescribed distance between a car and a vehicle in front. Some systems can make a car come to a stop, then continue.
Active driving assistance: Assists with vehicle acceleration, braking, and steering. Some systems are limited to specific driving conditions. The driver is responsible for the primary task of driving.
Lane keeping assistance: Assists with steering to keep a vehicle within its driving lane.

Collision Warnings

Blind spot warning: Detects vehicles to the rear in adjacent lanes while car is in motion and alerts the driver to their presence.
Forward collision warning: Detects impending collision while traveling forward and alerts driver. Some systems include pedestrian or other object detection.
Lane departure warning: Monitors a vehicle's position within a driving lane and alerts the driver as the vehicle approaches or crosses lane markers.
Parking obstruction warning: Detects obstructions near a vehicle during parking maneuvers.
Rear cross traffic warning: Detects vehicles approaching from the side and rear of a vehicle while in reverse motion and alerts the driver.

Collision Intervention

Automatic emergency braking: Detects potential collisions while in forward motion, provides forward collision warning, and automatically applies the brakes to avoid or lessen the severity of impact. Some systems include pedestrian or other object detection.
Automatic emergency steering: Detects potential collision and automatically controls steering to avoid or lessen the severity of impact. Some systems include pedestrian or other object detection.
Rear automatic braking: Detects potential collision while traveling in reverse and automatically applies the brakes to avoid or lessen the severity of impact. Some systems include pedestrian or other object detection.

Parking Assistance

Active parking assistance: Controls steering and potentially other functions during parking. The driver may be responsible for acceleration, braking, and gear position. Some systems are capable of parallel and/or perpendicular parking.
Remote parking: Parks vehicle without driver being inside the vehicle. Automatically controls acceleration, braking, steering, and shifting.

Other Driver Assistance Systems

Automatic high beams: Switches between high- and low-beam headlamps automatically based on lighting, surroundings, and traffic.
Backup camera: Provides view of area behind a vehicle when in reverse. Could include trailer assistance, a system that assists drivers during backing maneuvers with a trailer attached.
Driver monitoring: Monitors drivers to determine whether they are actively engaged in the task of driving. Some systems monitor driver’s eye movement and head position.
Head-up display: Projects image of vehicle data and/or navigational info into the driver’s forward line of sight.
Night vision: Aids driver's vision at night by projecting enhanced images on an instrument cluster or head-up display.
Surround-view camera Uses cameras located around vehicle to present views of surroundings.