Volvo CEO Warns Against “Irresponsible” Claims for Automated Cars

Touting semi-autonomous vehicles as more capable than they really are risks killing a technology that “might be the best lifesaver in the history of the car,” declares Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson.

He warns that over-stating the abilities of robotic features will lull operators into a dangerous reliance on the technology that ultimately will erode public and regulatory trust. He says carmakers would be wise to understate the performance of their technology, making it safer perceived rather than the opposite, the Financial Times reports.

Samuelsson cites no examples of his concern. But his criticism is clearly aimed at Tesla Inc., whose semi-automated Autopilot feature has been implicated in several fatal crashes. Tesla’s website states that all models equipped with its system have the necessary hardware for “full self-driving capabilities”—even though they can’t actually deliver that level of autonomous driving today.

SAE International defines six levels of vehicle autonomy ranging from zero (100% manual control) to five (100% unconditional automated control).

The most advanced system on the road today is at Level 2. Such vehicles can automatically steer, brake and accelerate under certain conditions. But they also require the driver to continuously supervise the system and be instantly ready to assert control immediately.