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New automated vehicle marketing guidance welcomed

Date: 26 November 2021   |   Author: Sean Keywood

A new set of principles for the marketing of automated vehicles, backed by the motor industry and the UK Government, has been published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The aim is to make sure the capabilities of such vehicles are clearly outlined - and drivers are not misled about the extent to which they still need to be in control.

The principles have been developed and agreed by the government's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles through its AV-Drive group, and have also been recognised by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The published principles are as follows:

  • An automated driving feature must be described sufficiently clearly so as not to mislead, including setting out the circumstances in which that feature can function.
  • An automated driving feature must be described sufficiently clearly so that it is distinguished from an assisted driving feature.
  • Where both automated driving and assisted driving features are described, they must be clearly distinguished from each other.
  • An assisted driving feature should not be described in a way that could convey the impression that it is an automated driving feature.
  • The name of an automated or assisted driving feature must not mislead by conveying that it is the other - ancillary words may be necessary to avoid confusion - for example for an assisted driving feature, by making it clear that the driver must be in control at all times.

Commenting on the publication of the principles, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "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. 

"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."

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: "Self-driving vehicles have the potential to make journeys safer, greener and more accessible for all, which is why we want to make the UK the best place to trial, develop and deploy their technology, to ensure we are among the first to realise their benefits.

"It is essential that industry and stakeholders are clear on their responsibilities and developed in partnership with the government, motoring and road safety groups, the SMMT's guiding principles are an important step to promote the safe use of automated technologies in the UK."

Motor industry safety organisation Thatcham Research's director of research Matthew Avery added: "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. 

"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."