TWO of Britain's leading safety organisations are calling on car makers to stop using words like ‘Autopilot' and ‘ProPilot' to describe new driver support technologies.
The use of such words in marketing blurbs - in these cases by Tesla and Nissan respectively - are misleading and potentially dangerous, according to safety organization Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
The two bodies have issued an urgent call to carmakers and legislators for greater clarity around the capability of vehicles sold with technology that does more and more driving on behalf of motorists.
The move comes in the wake of growing reports of people crashing whilst over-relying on technology which is not yet designed to drive the car independently.
Matthew Avery, head of research at Thatcham Research says: "We are starting to see real-life examples of the hazardous situations that occur when motorists expect the car to drive and function on its own. Specifically, where the technology is taking ownership of more and more of the driving task, but the motorist may not be sufficiently aware that they are still required to take back control in problematic circumstances.
"Fully automated vehicles that can own the driving task from A to B, with no need for driver involvement whatsoever, won't be available for many years to come. Until then, drivers remain criminally liable for the safe use of their cars and as such, the capability of current road vehicle technologies must not be oversold."
To provide guidance to carmakers and legislators, Thatcham Research has drawn up a list of 10 key criteria that every assisted vehicle must have.
Avery explains: "It begins with how systems are named and described across carmaker marketing materials and the driver's handbook.
"Names like Autopilot or ProPilot are deeply unhelpful, as they infer the car can do a lot more than it can. Absolute clarity is needed, to help drivers understand the when and how these technologies are designed to work and that they should always remain engaged in the driving task."
And there's a veiled threat to car makers from James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI: "Manufacturers must be responsible in how they describe and name what their vehicles can do, and the insurance industry is ready to hold them to account on this."