Electric Cars

Driver Assist Lingo Decoded

March 30, 2021

What is Driver Assist?

Electric cars are placing amazing new technology into the hands of drivers that borders on autonomous travel. Most of these new tech wonders fall under the heading of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and over 90 percent of new vehicles have at least one form of this amazing tech. These systems are getting more and more sophisticated and their use is widespread, but driver assist lingo can be confusing. What exactly do these systems really do?

What Does It All Mean?

One of the reasons for confusion around ADAS is that every auto manufacturer has surrounded these technologies with complex and sometimes bewildering proprietary names. The absence of consistent naming conventions makes it difficult for consumers to know what features a specific vehicle has and how they work. Similarly named tech might do completely different things. For instance, one car will just warn you about an impending collision while another will actually apply the brakes.

With that in mind, we have put together this list of current technologies that you’ll find being used in most electric cars today. We hope to clarify what these driver assist technologies can do as well as what they can’t do. We’ll also show you the staggering list of names for these systems.

Active Parking Assist

Do you have trouble parking? Then this is the feature for you. Often available as an upgrade, active parking assist utilizes sonar, radar and video cameras to help you pull into a parking space. They vary as to how much the car gets involved. Some will not only handle the steering and braking but will do the shifting, moving the car forward or backward as needed. Others will steer only, letting you brake and shift. They help you identify if a parking space is big enough, and they handle parking better than most humans. Yes, some even parallel park for you.

The staggering list of names for this tech includes:

  • Active park assist
  • Active parking assist
  • Automatic parking assist
  • Intelligent park assist
  • Parallel and Perpendicular park assist
  • Park assist
  • Park assist pilot
  • Parking assistant
  • Parking assistant plus
  • Parking pilot
  • Parking steering Assistant
  • ParkSense

Adaptive Cruise Control

We’re all familiar with basic cruise control that frees up your accelerator foot on long trips. But adaptive cruise control is now available on most electric cars and it takes cruising to a whole new level by keeping your vehicle at a constant speed between you and the vehicle in front of you.

These systems allow you to adjust the amount of separation you want between you and the car in front. Some but not all of these systems are capable of bringing your car to a complete stop if the need arises. But don’t assume this feature will slam on the brakes in the event of an emergency. It is not an automatic braking system.

Depending on your car, you might find this technology called any of the following:

  • Active distance assist distronic
  • Advanced smart cruise control
  • All-speed dynamic cruise control
  • Camera-based cruise control
  • Distance pilot distronic
  • Dynamic radar cruise control
  • Intelligent cruise control
  • Smart cruise control
  • Traffic-aware cruise control

Automatic Emergency Braking

Over 95 percent of all new cars have some form of automatic emergency braking. The system uses radar and video cameras to detect potential obstacles ahead of you and apply the brakes. But these systems are not all created equal. Some can only detect vehicles in your path, while others are able to respond to pedestrians, animals and bicycle riders. All of these braking technologies are designed to detect objects that are in motion rather than stationary objects. They are pretty useless if you are headed towards a tree, for example, and they are certainly not meant to do all the braking for you.

Depending on the car you drive, these braking systems could be called any of the following:

  • Active brake assist
  • Collision mitigation braking system
  • Collision prevention assist plus
  • Forward automatic braking
  • Forward collision avoidance assist
  • Forward collision mitigation
  • Forward collision warning
  • Forward emergency braking
  • Front pedestrian braking
  • Intelligent brake assist
  • Pre-collision assist
  • Pre-collision system
  • Pre-safe brake
  • Smart brake support

Blind Spot Warning

Nearly 90 percent of all new cars have some form of blind spot warning system. These use rear-facing cameras that are installed in the side view mirrors. Some of these also use radar at the rear of the car. The idea is to keep watch on the road behind you to alert you when a vehicle is approaching in adjacent lanes. On many of these systems, the alert comes in the form of an amber light near the side mirror. However, if you switch on your turn signal to change lanes, some of these warning systems also emit a warning sound or vibrate your seat to alert you.

Blind spot warning systems only issue warnings. They will not take any kind of action to prevent a collision. And they’re not particularly good at detecting smaller objects such as fast moving motorcycles that are coming up from behind. They work better at detecting cars and trucks that are advancing slowly from the rear.

Depending on the make and model of car, this tech can be named any of the following:

  • Blind spot assist
  • Blind spot detection
  • Blind spot information
  • Blind spot intervention
  • Blind spot monitor
  • Lane change assistant
  • Smart blind spot detection

Collision Warning

What is being called forward collision warning and rear cross traffic collision warning will be available on most cars by 2022. Basically, forward collision warning watches the road ahead of you by using video cameras and radar-based sensors. They alert you to potential impacts with vehicles ahead of you. These systems are not very good when you are driving fast and the car in front of you switches lanes suddenly to reveal a stationary object dead ahead. While these are warning systems, they are often paired with automatic emergency braking which will respond to the obstacle ahead.

Rear cross traffic collision warning systems perform a similar task when you are backing up. They use radar, sonar and video cameras to detect vehicles coming up from the side or rear when you are backing up. But like all of these systems, smaller, fast-moving objects are difficult for them to detect.

You’ll find these systems listed as any of the following:

  • Backup collision intervention
  • Collision prevention assist
  • Cross traffic warning
  • Cross path detection
  • Forward collision alert
  • Moving object detection
  • Rear cross path detection
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Rear cross traffic assist
  • Rear cross traffic monitor
  • Rear traffic alert
  • Rear traffic monitor
  • Reverse traffic detection

Lane Keeping Assist

Nearly 80 percent of new cars have some form of lane keeping assist. It uses camera-based sensors to detect lane markings. If it notices that you are drifting out of your lane, it emits a beeping sound to make you aware that you could end up in a ditch. Some versions actually steer you back into your lane while others try to keep you centered in your lane. That version makes you feel like you’re in one of the cars on a fixed track in Autopia at Disneyland. Luckily, these systems are smart enough not to stop you from purposely changing lanes.

Because lane keeping assist works via camera, it doesn’t work as well at night or in fog, rain or snow. If the lane markings are not clear, it doesn’t work at all. Not exactly a self-driving car, but you’ll find this technology called any of the following names:

  • Active lane keeping assist
  • Active steering assist
  • Intelligent lane intervention
  • Lane assist
  • Lane keeping assist
  • Lane keeping aid
  • Lane keeping system
  • LaneSense

Where is all this technology taking us? Driver’s assist will soon bring us face to face with self-driving cars. Imagine combining such technologies as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and automatic braking in cars that will do most of the driving for us on the highway.

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