WASHINGTON -- Consumer and auto safety advocates have called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Mercedes-Benz over a TV commercial for the 2017 E-class, saying the ad could mislead consumers by overstating the capability of automated driving systems available on the sedan.
The E-class offers an optional driver-assist feature that Mercedes calls “Drive Pilot,” which includes advanced adaptive cruise control and automated steering that allows the sedan to follow traffic and keep its lane at speeds of up to 130 mph.
In a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the consumer and safety advocates said the sedan doesn’t meet the meet 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.”
The letter was signed by leaders of Consumer Reports, the Center for Auto Safety and the Consumer Federation of America, and by former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook.
Automated driving systems and the way automakers market them have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks after regulators disclosed that a Tesla Model S driver died in a crash with the vehicle’s “Autopilot” driver-assist systems activated. NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board have both opened investigations into the crash, and Tesla has been criticized for how it marketed the system, and for the “Autopilot” name.
A Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman said it was not the company’s intent to cause confusion between driver-assist systems and the future promise of autonomous vehicles, noting “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 spokeswoman said. "'The Future,' featuring the F015 concept car, is intended to draw the connection between that vision and the innovations that are in today’s Mercedes-Benz models.”