Mercedes-Benz will change the way it sells partially automated driving technology in an effort to prevent customers from mistakenly believing its cars can drive themselves.
The technology leader will no longer refer to advanced self-steering, braking and accelerating functions as “drive pilot”, preferring to pitch its features as driver aids as opposed to a self-driving system.
Speaking with journalists at the New York motor show, Mercedes-Benz sales and marketing boss Britta Seeger says the brand elected to clear up confusion surrounding models such as the upcoming S-Class sedan due to be unveiled in April.
“One thing we started to do is not to name this anymore pilot in order to prevent customers from thinking this is driving – we are clearly naming this ‘assistance systems’,” she says.
“I think this is very important in order to set the expectation.”
Mercedes-Benz isn’t the only brand to use a ‘pilot’ tag – Volvo and Audi promote their technology as piloted driving, while Tesla calls its suite of driver aids ‘autopilot’.
Car companies are under pressure to innovate, bringing new technology to market as quickly as possible while also behaving in a safe and responsible manner.
At least one person has died at the wheel of a Tesla reportedly used in a semi-autonomous or self-driving pilot mode.
Seeger says customers may have misunderstood the capabilities of cars with some self-driving abilities, and that Mercedes will take a responsible approach to its marketing of new technology.
The brand came under fire in 2016 for controversial US commercials that misrepresented Drive Pilot functions in the latest E-Class.
Mercedes’ next model, the revised S-Class sedan, can stick to speed limits, brake and steer through roundabouts and safely change lanes without drivers touching key controls.
But ‘Benz won’t describe its features as piloted driving, a term that has been dropped from official material.
Seeger says she does not think it was a mistake to introduce the pilot term in years gone by.
“But taking into consideration what happened in the awareness of the customer, I think it’s better to set the expectation of the customer with an assistance system,” she says.
“We are very aware that we need to set right expectations with customers.”