A Plea to NHTSA to Simplify Nomenclature

On February 14, 2018, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Heidi King testified before the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee on Energy and Commerce. Among the topics was NHTSA’s goal of safe testing and deployment of Automated Driving Systems, and in the question and answer session noted that a simplification of the language used in describing the systems to the public would be a part of this goal.

Ms. King sees potential danger in the use or misuse of automated systems and she is absolutely right. Before we can all let go of the steering wheel or rely on a car to stop on its own when necessary there has to absolute clarity that vehicle’s systems are actually capable.


Here, we have advocated for simplification from the start as it relates to advanced systems being introduced today. And to be clear, these same systems are the stepping stones to automation. And the buying public is already confused.

On our website, we host well over 300 warning lights and tell tales mostly from vehicles sold in North America. They include symbols for 16 different Stability Control Systems. Actually, its mostly the names that are different. Wikipedia adds another four in their worldwide list. These lists including two that are named for the actual manufacturer, as if this somehow adds weight. We also host four different names for Active Cruise Control, five more for Collision Warning Systems, three for Blind Spot Monitoring, and so on.


To be sure, there can be and sometimes are good reasons for using distinct names for a given, system, since there may be variations in operation and system integration from one manufacturer to another. However, there are also indications that naming is done simply to stand out. One manufacturer calls its blind spot monitoring a BLind spot Information System so that the acronym can be BLIS!

SO NHTSA and Ms. King if you are listening, for the sake of the driving or riding public please do continue to work to simplify the nomenclature. And please, if you can extend the concept to the current crop of cars and trucks, the driving public will appreciate the effort. After all, stability control is stability control, lane departure systems are lane departure systems, etc.The average driver will never be aware of details beyond this, nor will they need them if they all perform to the same standards.

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