SMMT chief executive Mike HawesSMMT chief executive Mike Hawes

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SMMT publishes new guidelines governing how automated vehicles are advertised

  • SMMT publishes new guidelines on marketing automated cars
  • Guiding principles developed and agreed by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’ AV-DRiVE Group
  • Industry welcomes move to avoid consumer confusion around autonomous technology

Time 2 weeks ago

The automotive industry has signed up to a new set of guidelines designed to govern how automated vehicles are marketed.

Published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the rules set out how autonomous vehicles can be advertised by both dealers and manufacturers.

It is hoped the new guidance will ensure consumers receive consistent and clear information regarding automated driving features, ahead of their expected introduction to British roads in 2022.


The guidelines were developed and agreed by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’ AV-DRiVE Group.

They state that:

  • 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.

The list was published by the SMMT yesterday (Monday) with bosses saying it is ‘essential’ that autonomous vehicles are properly marketed.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, 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.’

Last week it was revealed that Apple is hoping to release a fully self-driving car by 2025.

The news highlights the importance of the new guidance which has been described as a ‘key milestone’.

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison added: ‘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 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.’

Industry welcomes move to avoid consumer confusion

Industry experts have welcomed the publication of the new guidance, which it is hoped will bring to an end any confusion around autonomous vehicles.

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, said: ‘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.’

Jim Holder, editorial director, What Car?, added: ‘The wording used to describe automated driving technologies has for a long time been a source of contention, with some buyers led to believe the technology is more capable than its intended use.

‘This has led to courts in countries like Germany to ban words like ‘Autopilot’ to ensure customers are not misled or do not misunderstand the limitations of the technology.

‘Having a set of guiding principles to protect UK customers is a welcome move and will help ensure manufacturers are consistent with their language and the boundaries of the technology in their vehicle.

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‘The difference between automated driver features and driver assist features are big, and many buyers remain unclear about the limitations of the technologies.

‘With developments in autonomous driving taking place at an increasingly rapid pace, it’s important manufacturers remain honest with buyers.

‘Autonomous cars will help reduce road accidents, but only when the technology is fully developed, and this has to be accurately communicated to buyers.’

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.

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