Does it mean air-con or stop-start? Car owners confused by tech symbols

In-car technology

Confused? You might well be by car tech symbols (Picture iStock/FYMStudio)

The best labels should explain instantly what something is or does. Yet with a lot of in-car technology, drivers don’t know what the dashboard symbols mean. And in some cases they think the buttons operate a different function altogether.

That was the outcome of research conducted by online car seller Buyacar.co.uk. It asked 1000 drivers to identify six common dashboard symbols. Much of this kit now features as standard, even on mid-range family cars such as the Ford Focus. And some of it is important for road safety. Yet many of the symbols chosen by car makers aren’t descriptive enough for drivers, leaving them flummoxed. Do you know what the following six symbols signify?

Symbol 1

In-car technology

What drivers thought

This feature is fitted to the majority of new cars. But surprisingly, given its popularity, the majority of drivers don’t know what it means. A third of drivers (33 per cent) thought it stood for air recirculation while 23 per cent believed it meant the car was in ‘automatic mode’.

What stop-start does

This automatically cuts the engine when the driver comes to a halt. When they release the brake or push the clutch, the engine starts again. It’s designed to cut exhaust emissions in heavy traffic and at traffic lights.

Symbol 2

In-car technology

What drivers thought

Nearly half of drivers (44 per cent) believed this symbol was for cruise control. However of the 1000 drivers asked, four in 10 (40 per cent) did know what the dial sign stands for.

What the speed limiter does

This frequently features alongside cruise control. The driver sets the speed limit and this function prevents the car exceeding that. It’s particularly useful in built-up areas where speed limits are very low and is also handy on motorways.

Symbol 3

In-car technology

What drivers thought

The majority of drivers identified the meaning of this symbol correctly. However, almost a quarter thought it signified a digital owners’ manual, 14 per cent believed it warned of icy conditions and 5 per cent thought it wanted them to head for the nearest fuel station.

What Head-Up Display does

This technology has been adopted from fighter jets. It is designed to show vital information such as vehicle speed and speed limits in the driver’s eyeline.

Symbol 4

In-car technology

What drivers thought

Most drivers correctly identified the symbol. But almost a quarter thought it meant the tech helped the car to keep a safe distance to the vehicle in front. A small number (3 per cent) of drivers thought it stood for rear fog lights.

What Lane Keep Assist does

This function has been designed to warn drivers if their vehicle drifts out of its lane. Some systems, usually called ‘Active Lane Keep Assist’, will adjust the steering to help the car stay in its lane.

Symbol 5

In-car technology

What drivers thought

Although this isn’t currently a particularly common feature, nine out of 10 drivers recognised it. Steering wheel height adjustment, windscreen ventilation or head-up display split the remaining 10 per cent.

What the heated steering wheel does

This is usually an addition to heated seats. The steering wheel heats up to warm the driver’s hands in cold weather.

Symbol 6

In-car technology

What drivers thought

This was the symbol that most people got right. Even so, 4 per cent thought it related to steering lock and 2 per cent thought it was about adjusting the steering wheel for maximum driver comfort.

What Park Assist does

This has been designed to help the driver with parking. With the majority of systems, the car identifies a parking space that’s big enough and then takes care of the steering. All the driver has to do is control backwards and forwards movement with the pedals.

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