Shortly after consumer groups wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging that it force Mercedes-Benz to pull ads for its 2017 E-Class that depict the car as nearly self-driving and take action against the automaker, the company took the singled-out ad out of rotation.
The letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez was signed by Consumer Reports, the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Auto Safety, and Joan Claybrook, former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Reported by Automotive News July 27, at issue is the optional driver-assist feature in the 2017 E-Class known as “Drive Pilot.” The feature includes advanced adaptive cruise control and automated steering that allows the sedan to follow traffic, and keep to its lane, at speeds of up to 130 mph.
This, said the consumer and advocacy groups, is misleading to consumers, who might conclude that the car is capable of fully autonomous driving. The groups said the 2017doesn’t meet federal standards established to define a self-driving vehicle and the ads, therefore, are deceptive.
In a statement, Mercedes-Benz said that “it was certainly not our intent to cause any confusion between driver-assistance systems and the promise of an autonomous future, one leads to the other but they are not the same.
“The systems used in the new E-Class are clearly identified as ‘driver-assistance systems’ which we have spent the better part of two decades developing in pursuit of an accident-free future,” the company said.
The next day, on July 28, Donna Boland, a company spokesman, told Automotive News that Mercedes decided to take the E-Class ad out of rotation because of the claims.
“We do not want any potential confusion in the marketplace to detract from the giant step forward in vehicle safety that the 2017 E class represents,” Boland said.
Boland went on to say that while the new E-Class has “a host of technology that will serve as the building blocks for increasing levels of autonomy (and which will be a prominent component of our marketing), it is not an autonomous vehicle and we are not positioning it as such.”