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E-Class: Saving Lives with Fine Print

E-Class: Saving Lives with Fine Print
by Roger C. Lanctot on 07-31-2016 at 7:00 am

 Television spots for cars are becoming a little like pharmaceutical ads filled with fine print and warnings about side effects and clarifications. Safety advocates are taking Mercedes to task for its latest TV ads for the 2017 E Class, claiming that the car company is misleading consumers into thinking the car can drive itself. For me, fine print is the trade-off on the road to saving lives.

Autonews: “Mercedes Challenged over ‘Drive Pilot’ TV Ads: –http://tinyurl.com/hqen85m

I have to say that when I first noticed official online information regarding the capabilities of the new E-Class I, too, was surprised at the volume of fine print. It looks like the future will be filled with it.
The fine print in question in the E-Class notes that the car cannot drive itself but has driving assistance features noting, further, that there are frequent reminders for the driver to keep hands on the wheel. The TV ad briefly depicts the driver removing his or her hands from the wheel while appearing to be on a highway before switching to a self-parking scenario.

But fine print also appears on Websites in descriptions of the vehicle’s Car-to-X communication capability and the description of its Drive Pilot Active Lane Change function – a clear response to the lane-changing proposition offered by Tesla Motor’s Autopilot. The key difference, of course, is Tesla doesn’t advertise on TV.

We may as well face facts. From today forward increasingly sophisticated cars will be sold with increasingly sophisticated safety systems … and a magnifying glass. The latest J.D. Power APEAL scores bear this out, with makers of safety-system-laden cars leading the list:

“Safety Features Score Big, Boosting New-Vehicle Appeal, J.D. Power Study Finds” – http://tinyurl.com/h5upkg2

My own personal research has shown that new car dealer sales people are generally more attuned to and more excited about explaining safety features than infotainment features. The J.D. Power study bears out Strategy Analytics’ own findings that safety is a higher car purchasing priority than infotainment.

In an ideal world, all safety features will work intuitively and, perhaps, be available and functioning at all times. But the reality is that humans need to learn how and when to activate and de-activate these systems. The pressure on HMI scientists is growing rapidly – along with the deployment of driver monitoring systems.

The fine print is unnerving, but I think Mercedes is getting it right. It’s hard to pursue “The best, or nothing” without getting into some areas where supplemental explanation is necessary. The surfeit of fine print is a small price to pay for lives saved in the future.

Car-to-X fine print:

Drive Pilot Active Lane Change:

“[3] Active Lane Change Assist is no substitute for active driving involvement. It does not predict the curvature and lane layout of the road ahead or the movement of vehicles ahead. It is the driver’s responsibility at all times to be attentive to traffic and road conditions, and to provide the driving inputs necessary to retain control of the vehicle. System may not detect some objects, obstacles or vehicles in the area into which the vehicle would move. See Operator’s Manual for system’s operating speeds and additional information and warnings.”

Roger C. Lanctot is Associate Director in the Global Automotive Practice at Strategy Analytics. More details about Strategy Analytics can be found here: https://www.strategyanalytics.com/access-services/automotive#.VuGdXfkrKUk

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