A leading UK car industry body has announced new guidelines for car makers planning to market automated vehicles. The initiative is designed to make sure consumers “receive consistent and clear information” regarding automated driving features as the technology becomes more common in the coming years.

Set out by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the new guidelines are described as “an outline for responsible advertising and communication relating to automated vehicles and their capabilities”. And the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, said responsible marketing of the technology would be “essential” for consumers to have confidence in their car’s automated features.

“The UK is at the forefront of the introduction of automated vehicles, which has tremendous potential to save lives, improve mobility for all and drive economic growth,” he said. “It is essential that this revolutionary technology is marketed accurately and responsibly, and we are delighted to have brought together industry, government and other key stakeholders to develop a series of guiding principles that will ensure consumers will have clarity and confidence over their capabilities from when these advanced vehicles first make their way into showrooms.”

Driverless cars

The guidelines are based on a handful of core principles, with manufacturers urged to ensure automated driving features are described “sufficiently clearly so as not to mislead”, with an emphasis on setting out the circumstances in which that feature can function. Car makers will also be required to describe features in such a way that differentiates them from “assisted driving” features.

By the same token, the guidelines say assisted driving features must not be described in a way that “could convey the impression” it is an automated feature. And the SMMT says the name of an automated or assisted feature “must not mislead” consumers.

Matthew Avery, director of research at the insurance industry’s research centre, Thatcham Research, said the organisation wanted car makers to use “simple” marketing messages that would not overstate cars’ capabilities.

“These guiding principles are a key milestone in ensuring there is no confusion around the capabilities of assisted driving systems and future automated systems, as well as the responsibilities of the drivers using them,” he said.

“We have long advocated consistency of terminology. There are two clear states – a vehicle is either assisted with a driver being supported by technology or automated where the technology is effectively and safely replacing the driver. We urge manufacturers now to use simple marketing that does not over promise functionality and the key is for them to be delivered consistently across all marketing material, as well as through effective dealership education and their subsequent conversations and engagement with consumers.”