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NHTSA releases quick shopping guide for driver-assist systems

It's not perfect, but it's necessary, since not everyone knows what these systems do.

Tech geeks like you and me are more likely to know how newfangled driver-assist systems work than your average car buyer. Since we're definitely not the majority, the feds have come up with a reference guide to help navigate the dealership.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a pocket shopper's guide for driver-assistance tech. It's short and straightforward -- after a quick definition of driver-assist tech, it goes into brief explanations for most systems and the benefits they confer.

You also get little images that help reinforce what each system does, in case you're not the book-learnin' sort.


Some of the tech described in the guide is old -- most folks who have been car shopping in the last five years should be at least somewhat familiar with the idea of a backup camera. It also covers the newest of the new, like pedestrian detection and what NHTSA calls "highway pilot," which covers tech like GM's Super Cruise and Nissan's ProPilot Assist.

One problem with this guide is that it uses vague definitions for each type of assist tech. Not every automaker uses "lane keeping assist" to describe the system that helps hold a vehicle in its lane. That can still confuse the buyer into thinking the system helps more or less than it actually does. NHTSA could always improve its guide by offering examples of some of the proprietary names automakers use.

Overall, this is a great move by the feds. The average age of a used car on the road today is about 11, which means many buyers might not be up to date with the latest systems, how they function and the benefits they can bring. By creating a straightforward guide like this, even if it's a bit too simple in some ways, it can help educate the public on systems that could very well save them a bunch of hassle (or even save their lives).

You can take a look at the guide on the other side of this link. If you know someone who would appreciate it, print 'er out and keep a physical copy on hand. And what do you know -- we have something similar, too!