A new report claims that automakers’ marketing of driver assistance features is creating unrealistic expectations in drivers, leading to safety issues.

The report from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) highlights ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) such as lane assist and auto-braking as a risk, due to manufacturers’ over-zealous marketing. The report’s authors claim that the names of these features – they cite Autopilot and ProPilot as examples – are causing drivers to be overconfident and to entrust the systems with a level of responsibility for the driving task which they are not designed to handle.

While “full” autonomy is classified as Level 5, the systems discussed in the report are widely thought of as Level 2, in that they are not designed to offer full autonomy. Level 2 systems require the driver to take back control of the driving task at a moment’s notice if the scenario on the road overstretches the system’s capabilities.

Automakers have a responsibility to market their products responsibly – especially safety-critical products. In the rush towards autonomy, it’s no doubt tempting to prioritise quarterly results over a longer-term view.

But if we don’t communicate properly around autonomy today, we may be storing up problems for tomorrow. When the general public is already wary of autonomy, does it serve the automotive industry to set (arguably) unrealistic expectations around products which feed negative headlines and damage consumer confidence? Full autonomy will rely on the ability to gain consumers’ trust, and communicating clearly and transparently about a system’s capabilities will be central to that mission.

The road to full autonomy is likely to be long and winding, but clarity, honesty and transparency in communications can smooth some of the bumps.