Mercedes-Benz has agreed to pull a TV commercial for the "Drive Pilot" feature on its redesigned 2017 E-class cars after safety advocates said the ad could mislead consumers into thinking the feature was a fully autonomous driving system. The advocates also assailed federal safety regulators for "rushing full speed ahead" to put self-driving cars on the road without adequate safeguards.
The optional drive-assist feature includes advanced adaptive cruise control and automated steering that allows the sedan to follow traffic and stay in its lane at speeds of up to 130 mph.
Mercedes said late Thursday that it would take the ad out of rotation, saying it did "not want any potential confusion in the marketplace to detract from the giant step forward in vehicle safety the 2017 E class represents.”
The Mercedes decision followed a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez from safety advocates who said the sedan did not meet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s definition of a fully or partially self-driving car.
Yet the E-class is “marketed in a way that a reasonable consumer would believe it does,” the advocates said, adding the commercial could give “a false sense of security in the ability of the car to operate autonomously,” said the letter from officials of Consumer Reports, the Center for Auto Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, and by former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook.
Tesla drops camera supplier
Automated driving systems have been under scrutiny in recent weeks after a series of accidents blamed at least partly on the systems. In the most serious, the driver of a Tesla was killed when his car, while operating on Autopilot, crashed into the side of a tractor trailer truck on May 7.
Tesla now says it will stop using cameras manufactured by Mobileye, the company that made the camera used in the fatal Tesla crash. Both companies acknowledged the split and each gave the impression it had made the decision. Mobileye implied it had not had any input into how Tesla was using the camera.
“I think in a partnership, we need to be there on all aspects of how the technology is being used, and not simply providing technology and not being in control of how it is being used,” Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua said in an earnings call with investment analysts, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
What's the rush?
The auto safety advocates also berated National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) Administrator Mark Rosekind in a letter, saying he was "inexcusably ... rushing full speed ahead" to promote the deployment of self-driving robot car technology instead of developing adequate safety standards "crucial to ensuring imperfect technologies do not kill people by being introduced into vehicles before the technology matures."
The letter was in response to Rosekind's recent assertion that NHTSA cannot "stand idly by while we wait for the perfect" before self-driving robot car technologies are deployed.
"This is a false dichotomy," the advocates wrote. "The question is not whether autonomous technology must be perfect before it hits the road, but whether safety regulators should allow demonstrably dangerous technology with no minimum safety performance standards in place, to be deployed on American highways."
The letter charged that Tesla’s Autopilot "could not tell the difference between a white truck and a bright sky or between a big truck and a high mounted road sign." It said Tesla "apparently knew of the defect, yet still released autopilot in beta mode and turned its customers into human guinea pigs."
The safety advocates charged that Rosekind and his colleagues at NHTSA "have become giddy advocates of selfdriving cars, instead of sober safety regulators tasked with ensuring that new systems don’t kill people. Instead of seeking a recall of Tesla’s flawed technology, you inexcusably are rushing full speed ahead."