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Easy As ABC 123

Easy As ABC 123


It's very easy to walk into a showroom today to look for a new car and end up being baffled by the technology and the terms used to describe them.

It's very easy to walk into a showroom today to look for a new car and end up being baffled by the technology and the terms used to describe them.

It’s an alphabet soup of acronyms leaving many of us feeling lost. Do you know your ASC from your TSA, or a CEB/PEW from a PIH? More to the point, do you need to?

Many of us feel that we are being blinded by science but the motor trade is very rapidly moving from cogs to codes, as the head of VW recently put it when unveiling the new Golf, and dashboards are fast becoming more digital. Here we take a look at some of the most common of these systems fitted in most new cars and explain what they are. Broadly speaking you can break them down into four areas; (a) safety (b) driver aids (c) communication (d) fuel types.

Let's start with safetyDiagram of car reverse parking technology

ASC (Active Stability Control). Essentially this is like having a computerised co-pilot in the car which steps in if you get into a skid. Emergency braking or steering can cause a driver to lose control so ASC instantly manages the engine power, brakes and traction control to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Sometimes referred to as ESP (electronic stability control) or DSC (dynamic stability control) it is becoming increasingly common on new cars and should be a must have on any you look at.

AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking). Sensors at the front constantly scan the gap between your car and an obstacle such as the vehicle ahead and if it computes that the distance is closing too fast for safety will activate the brakes.

Crash safety tests are now insisting that manufacturers fit this if they want to score the highest ratings. Thankfully most of them are. Similar systems called CEB (city emergency braking) are now increasingly programmed to spot pedestrians stepping into the road in front too.

BSM (Blind Spot Monitoring). A safety feature for changing lanes on a dual carriageway or motorway because it keeps track of what is behind and to the side and will display it on a screen so you can look before you move to check it is clear.

HSA (Hill Start Assistance). Does what it says and stops the car from rolling backwards as you release the brake pedal and wait for the clutch to bite as you start off on a slope. It engages and disengages automatically.

TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System). Keeps on eye on the pressure in all four wheels and will alert you with a graphic on the dashboard if one is under-inflated. Remember that ultimately those four palm-sized patches of rubber are the only thing between you and the road and have been engineered to run at the correct pressure.

ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) This system uses sensors on the front of the car to detect vehicles ahead and maintain a safe distance. If the car in front slows down, so do you. If the car ahead starts going faster than the speed your cruise control is set to, though, the system goes back to working like normal cruise control, keeping you at your chosen speed.

LDW (Lane departure warning). This is a simple piece of safety equipment that warns you if you’re about to leave your lane without indicating. If you cross the white line, the system will assume you’ve fallen asleep and alert you, often by beeping or vibrating your seat.

TPMS (Tyre pressure monitoring system). Tyre pressure monitoring is now a legal requirement for new cars, and it quite simply monitors the air pressure in each tyre. If it senses a dramatic drop in pressure, it will alert the driver.

APP (Automatic Parking Assist). Called various names but all allow hands-free parking. It measures a gap alongside the car, checks for obstacles and if it is big enough and safe will take over the steering function to guide it in or out so all you have to do is work the brake or accelerator. A big step towards self-driving cars and again, common in many new models.

DMS (Driver Monitoring System). Dashboard sensors measure the driver’s eye movements and can tell if they are losing attention by becoming drowsy. It can alert the driver and soon will be able to take over control of the brakes to stop a collision.

Stop/Start. Fuel/emissions saving system that automatically cuts the engine if the car is stationary such as at traffic lights and restarts it as soon as the driver engages first gear or presses the accelerator.

White Volkswagen electric car being charged


Bluetooth. This allows hands-free use of a mobile phone and should be standard on any new car.

MirrorLink. Fitted to a wide range of cars and some vans it allows MirrorLink-enabled smartphones to be plugged in and access a variety of apps such as navigation, music and phone which you can select from without taking your eyes off the road.

ACR (Automatic Crash Response). Will alert the emergency services and give them the GPS position if the car detects that the airbags have been triggered in a collision.

OnStar (has different names with different manufacturers). Effectively a concierge, personal assistant service. Puts you through to a call centre where you can get anything from directions to the nearest fuel station or book a table at a restaurant. It will tell you if an alert flashes onto the dashboard for a service issue or mechanical fault.

Android. Lets you access your Android smartphone tools via the car’ touchscreen on the dashboard between the driver and passenger seats which is easier and much safer than using the mobile while on the move.

Dashboard closeup of a Land Rover vehicleFuel Types

AFV (Alternatively Fuelled Cars) or ULEV (Ultra Low Emission vehicles). Catch-all term for any cars not entirely powered by either petrol or diesel and which use electric, hydrogen or hybrid energy.

PIH/PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid or Plug-in Electric Vehicle). Cars which have a petrol engine and an electric motor with a battery which can be recharged from an external socket.

PICG (Plug-in Car Grant) A Government grant of several thousand pounds towards the cost of a low emission car or van. It has been revised and is now divided into three categories.

  • Category 1 Vehicles with a zero-emission range of 70 miles, and CO2 emissions lower than 50g/km. £4,500 grant.

  • Category 2 Vehicles with a zero-emissions range between 10 and 69 miles, and CO2 emissions lower than 50g/km. £2,500 grant.

  • Category 3 Vehicles with a zero-emissions range of at least 20 miles, and CO2 emissions between 50-75g/km. £2,500 grant.

Only cars priced less than £60,000 are eligible for the grant.

For more information please contact one of the Swansway Group dealerships.