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Mercedes-Benz under fire for 'misleading' self-driving advertising

The Consumers Union wants the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, arguing that such marketing could give drivers a \"false sense of security.\"

Consumer Reports' activist division has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Mercedes-Benz ads promoting the new E-Class's 'self-driving' features.

The Consumers Union argues that the marketing campaign "is likely to mislead a reasonable consumer by representing the E-Class as a self-driving car when it is not," potentially giving drivers a "false sense of security" and the mistaken belief that the car can operate autonomously.

The petition points to a television ad, "The Future" (embedded below), that starts with video footage showcasing the Luxury in Motion concept that debuted early last year. The futuristic car represents Mercedes-Benz's long-term vision for a vehicle centered around full autonomy, with rotating front seats that spin to face the second-row passengers while underway.

"Is the world truly ready for a vehicle that can drive itself?" the narrator posits. "An autonomous-thinking automobile that protects those inside and outside."

The footage transitions from the concept car to the redesigned 2017 E-Class as the voiceover proclaims "ready or not, the future is here." To be clear, the fine print clarifies that the production vehicle cannot drive itself and merely offers automated driving features.

"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 Union wrote in its letter to FTC officials. "This misrepresentation is material because it significantly involves safety or is likely to affect a consumer's conduct or decision with regard to the car."

Consumer Reports has been vocally critical of Tesla Motors in the wake of the first fatal Autopilot crash, pressuring the company to disable the system until additional layers of safety protections can be implemented.

Tesla has flatly dismissed such suggestions, arguing that only a single confirmed death has occurred in more than 130 million miles of Autopilot-assisted driving. In contrast, the average fatality rate among all vehicles in the US is said to be closer to 90 million miles. The company consequently believes disabling the system would be irresponsible.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are both investigating the crash. Neither agency has signaled any intention to tighten laws or implement other actions, though the inquiries are still in the early stages.

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