By on July 28, 2016

Mercedes E-Class ad

A glitzy Mercedes-Benz commercial that touts the 2017 E-Class as a vehicle that “can drive itself” has consumer and safety advocates fighting mad.

A number of groups are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to take action against the automaker, saying Mercedes mislead the public. In a letter to FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the groups claim the E-Class doesn’t come close to being a self-driving vehicle, and fine print doesn’t cut it.

The ad showcases the new Benz’s automated features. In it, an E-Class driver briefly taking his hands off the wheel during a nighttime drive, then uses the vehicle’s self-parking system. “Is the world truly ready for a vehicle that can drive itself?” the narrator states. “An autonomous-thinking automobile that protects those inside and outside. Ready or not, the future is here.”

2017 E-Class models are available with “Drive Pilot,” an automated system that uses adaptive cruise control and a lane-holding feature to make driving easier.

The letter bears the signatures of Consumer Reports, the Center for Auto Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, and Joan Claybrook, former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator. In it, the groups say the automaker’s claim could give drivers “a false sense of security in the ability of the car to operate autonomously.”

Fine print appears at the bottom of the ad, warning consumers that the vehicle “cannot drive itself, but has automated driving features.” Still, Mercedes-Benz is telling consumers two very different things, the groups say.

“The E-Class does not meet the definition of either a fully or partially self-driving car, yet it is marketed in a way that a reasonable consumer would believe it does,” the letter reads, adding that the commercial could pose a safety risk.

Daimler’s advert lands at a stormy time for autonomous driving. Controversy spiked after a fatal May crash involving a Tesla driving in semi-autonomous Autopilot mode. The NHTSA and National Transportation Safety Board opened investigations into the crash, focusing on what role Autopilot played.

A Mercedes spokesperson quoted by Automotive News said the company didn’t intend to cause confusion. The spokesperson added that the technologies featured in the commercial are clearly identified as “driver assistance systems.”

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33 Comments on “Mercedes-Benz Slammed Over Misleading Commercial...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    With the light up star, wheels with too many spokes, quilted leather, and matte metal trim instead of wood – the 2016 E400 Vulgarity Edition gets you there faster.

    I couldn’t focus on the autonomy because I was too mad about the other things.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I couldn’t take my eyes off the color temperature of the headlights. It looks an ebay HID kit installed in a reflector housing on a brodozer.

      Hopefully that’s faked for the sake of the ‘future’ theme in the ad, and not what the lights really look like.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I wonder if they tried to make it match the light up star as best they could. So far I’ve only seen one Merc with light up star, and it was in LA last year. Seen none here in Ohio.

        • 0 avatar
          Coopdeville

          Judging by the opinions on this site I must be the only one in the world who likes LED light up stuff. I think the light up symbol is cool. Is “cool” still cool to say?

          We live in the future! Embrace it! As a child Tron taught me that the future will be festooned with red and blue glow strips across every surface. Comparatively that light up symbol is classy. :)

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “Comparatively that light up symbol is classy. :)”

            That statement is the exact summation of the problem with a light up symbol.

          • 0 avatar
            Coopdeville

            You lost me. I think it’s that definition of “classy” at work again. I can’t wait until they make a glowing script H for my Hyundai so I can rock that.

            Is it better if it’s for your home? Y u no want Tron house?

            http://cdn.homedit.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Contemporary-kitchen-bar-lighting.jpg
            http://st.hzcdn.com/simgs/dfc1c6a30307a842_4-2188/transitional-home-theater.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The general idea is that people who use the term “classy” don’t actually have any understanding of what it means. And it’s also a tacky word.

          • 0 avatar
            Coopdeville

            So “classy” has gone to full irony-only meaning, like “literally?” I missed that meeting.

            I have no idea if I was part of the joke, or the joke itself. Such is life.

            I also feel like I was raised “with class.” What’s the current socially acceptable way to convey that I’m not a drooling redneck with derelict cars on the lawn?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You just have to use a different word or words.

    • 0 avatar
      MeaMaximaCulpa

      The light up star MUST be a utilitarian feature as Mercedes has used it on their commercial trucks for years and we all know that truckers aren’t ones for vanity!

  • avatar
    SatelliteView

    How is this news?

  • avatar
    Waterview

    So instead of worrying about distracted drivers who have their hands on the wheel (and a cigarette, cellphone, etc.), I now have to worry about the same drivers who have removed their hands from the wheel ? Not sure we’re headed in the right direction on this one.

  • avatar
    multicam

    Yep, I saw this commercial last night and immediately thought of the Tesla controversy. It made me wonder if Mercedes-Benz had already made and paid for the advertisement and just said screw it, we already invested the money to make the ad. Or are they that out of touch? It wouldn’t have been hard to change the voiceover.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Check out this print ad. They’re actually calling it self-driving:

    http://d254andzyoxz3f.cloudfront.net/img_4714.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      They’re not. It says self-parking and self-correcting. Neither of those means self-driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Ugliest1

        The big letters say “Introducing a self-driving car from a very self-driven company”. I’m wondering where the outrage so ably and oft expressed against Tesla’s “Autopilot” name is, for Mercedes’ just-as-marketing-focused-except-way-less-able “DrivePilot”. Except Mercedes actually calls their product “self-driving” [in the big letters].

  • avatar
    Corto

    This is only the tip of the iceberg. I am hoping for very strong regulation on all driver assistance devices. We could be heading for a very bumpy ride until all this is sorted out. My advice: keep your sticks on the ice kids, and your hands on the wheel!

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Heh. Saw this one coming from miles away.

    Get over it, people. Autonomy is coming whether you like it or not. Just be glad you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to; that, too, will change sooner than you think.

    • 0 avatar
      Coopdeville

      Ha, yes! – I’ve been wanting to rant about this for a while. It seems like everyone else has.

      I’ll believe that when I see an autonomous car safely navigate down a snow covered, ice-patched, Midwestern/Northeastern road where the surrounding landscape is equally covered in white fluffy shapes that used to be curbs and grass and shrubbery. It also must be able to safely recognize traffic lights and stop signs totally obscured by blowing or stuck-on snow, and equally able to judge if that snow-covered, plate obscured car in the next lane is coming at it, parked, or traveling in the same direction. Snow in our state and a large number of others means “too bad, go to work.”

      https://localtvwjw.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/north-ridgeville-snow.jpg?quality=85&strip=all&w=2000
      http://media2.newsnet5.com/photo/2015/02/01/tremontsnow1_1422820885893_12932697_ver1.0_640_480.JPG

      I’ll also want to see the system use judgement on when to use small throttle inputs vs large, when to not rely upon ABS, when to turn off the T/C to get through a drift that requires more power to the wheels, not less, regardless of the increased slippage. To be fair, I would like to see when most people figure this out too, but in the meantime people like me and my wife will just drive around those idiots.

      I’ll wait until all of our roads are well marked. If I avoid I-75, like I often do if jammed, there are 3 roads I travel between Cincinnati and Dayton that have no lane markings whatsoever – edge lines OR middle lines, and certainly no marked limits, which might change from 55 to “reasonable” depending on how heavily populated these areas are and whether the driveways are 100 feet apart. Drivers are expected to know not to run into each other and respectfully pass each other in tight spots using social cues.

      If the answer is all cars will be GPS connected, I’ll wait until the average vehicle age isn’t 11.5 years old and increasing, since those are unlikely to be retrofitted with some kind of system. I’ll also wait for that mythical better GPS coverage as currently there are high-end suburbs in OH where I drop to 3g or even 1g with Verizon. Google Maps is about useless when that happens and you better not be relying upon it for direction.

      I’ll also be sure to inform my fellow 8.5 million registered motorcycle riders in the US (as of 2014) that they’re no longer allowed to ride under their own self control. If you thought the Cliven Bundy armed protest was bad, just wait until you piss off this group of 2nd amendment enthusiasts.

      Anything else? I’ve left out the number of times I’ve had to park in a field for an event, or a friend’s rural lawn for a cookout (good luck getting down that 1/2 mile un-mapped gravel lane!), or even when at a festival (the Good Guy’s recent Columbus show comes to mind) where the event organizers completely re-route the flow of traffic on city streets and in parking lots to accommodate traffic.

      This is a pipe-dream or technology-p0rn for insulated people who misunderstand or under represent the needs of a huge number of people outside wealthy urban areas in this country. We’re 30 years off if we’re a day.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    So, MB is doing what everyone is insinuating Tesla is doing – MB actually advertises the vehicle as “self-driving”, something Tesla has never done.

    However, since they’re not an american car manufacturer or an underdog, I’m sure they’ll get a pass.

    I specifically said here more than once that if Tesla advertised the vehicle as “self-driving”, as many suggested, I’d be the first to condemn them. So, let me be the first to condemn MB for advertising the notion that these vehicles can drive themselves.

    If nothing else, though, I hope this makes it clearer to some here that Tesla’s system and other manufacturers share hardware and features. Suggesting Tesla is doing something different from anyone else is just a straw man argument. If “Autopilot” is implying that the vehicle is self-driving, what does saying “a self-driving car” and calling it “DrivePilot” say?

    Clearly, the FCC (is it the FCC?) needs to step in with some regulations around what you can call these technologies, the same way you can’t just slap “low fat” on a product because you changed it from 50 to 49g of fat, or claim your homeopathic remedy can cure cancer, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Here’s one for you, since you got me thinking about regulation (FDA in this case).

      12 oz Diet Mountain Dew, 0 calories
      20 oz Diet Mountain Dew, 10 calories

      • 0 avatar
        orenwolf

        Let me guess, some sort of regulation about not having to report less than 10 calories or somesuch? :)

        While at the airport over the weekend I overheard a conversation between some folks waiting for their flight how modern cars can “pretty much drive themselves now” and that airlines need to worry – if people can sit back and read the paper while driving, why would they fly short hops?

        Media plus poor advertising choices is making this issue more and more about impressions and less about facts, and that is always dangerous.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Impressions are more important than facts in America. Sales of the CLA, presidential campaigns, and Nintendo’s recent stock surge are all evidence of this.

          • 0 avatar
            orenwolf

            Reminds me of this;

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnhJWusyj4I

            In all seriousness though, I do get that. It’s hard enough to dig around for the facts of a given situation/technology/whatever without finding lots of informed speculation and comment, and it’s why I suggest both that 1) despite autopilot not, in practice, being a “hands-off”, no attention required flight control system in aviation, people *think* it is, so it’s a poor tame for Tesla to choose, and 2) we really should not call vehicles self-driving until they actually are.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I don’t think anyone can defend Mercedes-Benz calling this car self driving anymore than Tesla calling their system Autopilot. I can really imagine someone from MBUSA’s legal department turning on the TV and seeing this ad. The reaction would be priceless.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Take some time to learn about what autopilot actually means in aviation. Learn the FAA definition. You’ll find that the name is very appropriate for Tesla to use.

        • 0 avatar
          multicam

          mcs, but as Corey said earlier, “Impressions are more important than facts in America.”

          It doesn’t matter what autopilot actually means in aviation if the popular perception is that it essentially makes the pilots redundant. The perception then transfers to these driving aids and we’re left with dangerous situations on the road.

    • 0 avatar

      In this case MB is getting a lot of grief over this and many Tesla critics have gone after MB over on twitter. I imagine we will see these attacks on all the auto driving systems. In this case MB was just being stupid.

  • avatar
    Testacles Megalos

    if people really are demanding transport in which they can sit rather than use their legs, yet don’t need to be an active participant, isn’t that a mandate for public transport? Not big busses and multi-unit light rail that arrives/departs every 30 minutes as is seen now, rather small single units that stop at your stop every 10 minutes. the local interstate is a traffic jam every morning with people going from one general area to another general area. Why not have large express busses or light rail connecting those general areas, and small (8-10 passenger) local frequent busses feeding those large transporters? Happens every day along the east coast….

  • avatar

    Here’s an idea.

    Mercedes should call it Autopilot :-)

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Most likely they can’t because Tesla copyrighted the name for their system. Although, the word is a generic term in the aviation world so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be the same thing when used in a car.

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