Mercedes Rights Tesla's Wrongs By Ditching Autopilot

Interview

Is this the responsible marketing move that all automakers should follow?

The advancement of technology has been moving at a rapid pace ever since the industrial revolution, but it’s at this day and age, when the world is at the brink of bringing some of the past day’s most outlandish sci-fi concepts to life, that it’s easy to get a bit carried away by enthusiasm. Take Tesla’s Autopilot for example. The very fact that it’s named ‘Autopilot’ has bothered some watchdog groups in the past and according to Motoring, Mercedes wants to do something about what it considers false advertising.

The problem with Tesla, as has been pointed out, is that advocates believe the name Autopilot can lead some buyers to think that the system is truly a fully autonomous driving system. While many buyers know the distinction between the two, it’s the few that don’t get it that can be a danger to themselves and others on the road. According to head of sales and marketing Britta Seeger, Mercedes has taken steps to help drivers better distinguish from semi-autonomous driver aids and an actual autonomous driving system, which so far does not exist. “One thing we started to do is not to name this pilot anymore, in order to prevent customers to think that this is driving,” she said.

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“We are naming these assistance systems and I think this is very important in order to set the expectation." While many of these systems work so well that driver confidence can quickly reach a level of over-reliance, Mercedes wants to remind drivers that cars with these systems still need a conscious human behind the wheel ready to intervene in case things go wrong. “In communicating to the customer, we take a lot of care to remind them how the system works. That you need to grip the steering wheel.” It’s the small things like these that differentiate Mercedes from Tesla, though the American automaker’s recent success leaves it up to interpretation about which approach is more successful.

For Tesla, which places much of its brand’s value on futuristic next-generation technology, a name like Autopilot is more of a marketing ploy, but marketing is not a concern for Mercedes here. Regardless of approach, it won’t be long before an autopilot button actually means that the car will drive itself.

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