Branding for Safety

When examining the future of automotive, companies must consider how branding may affect more than just marketing. What are the implications of misleading brands?

This article on the recent Tesla fatality discusses how media outlets are using the tragedy to condemn autonomous and semi-autonomous cars. But this blame should not fall solely on the technology itself—in fact, autonomous cars have better safety records than human-driven cars—but on the branding of the vehicle.  The name “Autopilot” suggests the car is almost fully autonomous, like a commercial jet’s autopilot software, allowing the pilot to take his hands off the gears. Tesla’s Autopilot, though, was in beta and was engineered as a supplement to—rather  than a replacement of—a human driver. Could the name itself lead drivers to put too much trust in the software and take their hands off the wheel?

While not solely responsible, the brand name may have been a factor in the accident. This tragedy may shape the future language of autonomous vehicles so that technology is named with both marketing and safety in mind. Companies will now—even more than before—have to walk with caution when it comes to branding their new vehicles.