March 10, 2021—Advertising campaigns have been overestimating vehicle’s capabilities since the 1960s, but with today’s technology, hyperbolic language has the power to be dangerous.
In the 1960s, Chrysler ran a campaign for its Imperial model, advertising it as “foot-less driving” said Daniel McGehee, director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator and associate professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Iowa. What is it foot-less driving, you’re wondering?
“Cruise control,” said McGehee. “In the mid 1960s, the Imperial was heavily marketed towards women, inferring you won’t run your stockings if you drive this car.”
Today’s vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems are not advertised as foot-less, but even more misleadingly as “driverless,” which implies that the occupant doesn’t have to, and perhaps shouldn’t, pay attention to how the vehicle is acting. McGehee said that couldn’t be further from the truth.
What’s in a name?
McGehee said ADAS features were not created to replace the driver, but rather to enhance the driver’s abilities by “looking over the driver’s shoulder.”
Ad campaigns that show highly intelligent ADAS features as “self-driving” and “driverless” are not only inaccurate but could lead to potentially dangerous assumptions being made. “ADAS means the car is looking over your shoulder,” said McGehee, “It’s not automation, it is not controlling the vehicle independent of the driver.”
Liza Dixon, a PhD candidate at Bosch studying human-machine interaction in automated driving, coined the term “autonowashing” to refer to the phenomena of “making something appear to be more autonomous than it really is,” which she said could have catastrophic consequences.