|A push to clear up confusing auto tech terminology|
Understanding the difference between a driver-assist feature and a self-driving system is a life-or-death matter.
Unfortunately, the terminology used to describe them has devolved into a morass of marketing jargon that often exaggerates capabilities or blurs the line between the two.
Efforts are underway to improve that language. This week, a group of safety organizations put forth a set of common definitions that aims to cut through the clutter and, among other items, better define the differences between collision warnings and collision interventions.
The definitions are not intended to override the marketing strategies of individual automakers, the group says, but instead to standardize key functions of driver-assist systems.
"This is critical to ensure that drivers are aware these systems are designed to assist, not replace, an engaged driver," said the group, composed of members from AAA, Consumer Reports, J.D. Power and the National Safety Council and endorsed by SAE International.
Meanwhile, a German engineer has coined a new word that marks a welcome addition to the industry's collective vocabulary.
In an academic paper put forth this week, Liza Dixon writes that language that exaggerates the performance and dilutes the limitations of driver-assist systems amounts to an "autonowashing" that inflates consumer expectations. In the worst cases, the confusion can have deadly consequences.
Crashes stemming from this automation complacency hang a "dark cloud over the technology," Dixon writes, "increasing customer wariness about the reliability of vehicle automation in a general sense. In the long term, this may hinder acceptance."
Establishing trust through accurate language is a linchpin to achieving the safety benefits promised by these technologies. These efforts to improve terms – and cast those that don't adhere as "autonowashed" – are tangible steps in the right direction.
-- Pete Bigelow