Hyundai Will Review TV Ad Featuring Profoundly Irresponsible Driver

Hyundai has decided to give some additional thought to a new ad for the Sonata where the driver gleefully tests the car’s semi-autonomous safety features by behaving like a reckless buffoon.

In the ad, which features a Hyundai salesman taking a customer out for a test drive, the sales rep first mentions the car’s “turbo-charged engine,” which immediately results in the driver gunning the vehicle down the tree-lined suburban street.

Then he tells her about the car’s lane-departure warning system, so what does she do? She lets go of the steering wheel and lets the Sonata drift into the next lane.

First off, it’s a warning, not any sort of self-correcting autopilot system that will put you back in your lane. Second, as the all-but-unreadable fine print in the ad clarifies, the warning system only really works when the vehicle is traveling more than 44 mph, meaning the driver would likely need to be speeding in order to get the system to work on this quaint residential road.

Not only is this behavior unsafe, but the ad also seems to imply that your Hyundai Sonata will immediately drift several feet to the right on its own while driving down an otherwise straight road:

Then comes the real kicker to the commercial, when the sales guy mentions the automatic emergency braking. If you’re not familiar with AEB, it uses sensors to detect imminent collisions and tries to stop the car when it determines that the driver is probably not going to do anything.

For the Hyundai ad, the driver doesn’t see this as a helpful last-resort feature that may be able to save lives or reduce harm, but as a challenge.

“Wait — It can stop itself?” asks the driver, cheering with self-destructive elation as she guns the Sonata, again disregarding common safety practices and the fine print that (un)clearly states how AEB is only really effective between 5-55 mph.

And even in those cases, it’s not meant to be a dare for the driver. Can you imagine a car company showing off its new airbags by having a human driver intentionally smash into a wall for kicks?

“This is disappointing to see from Hyundai,” says William Wallace, policy analyst for our colleagues at Consumers Union. “Consumers are still getting familiar with these new automated safety features, and companies need to be up front about what they can and cannot do.”

Wallace contends that most people won’t see the mouseprint disclosures, like the fact that the lane departure warning system “will not prevent the loss of control,” but they will see the driver “take her hands off the wheel and the car seemingly steer itself back into its lane.”

Wallace says all automakers need to be more aware of mixed messages about these features and to put safety first when advertising them.

Jake Fisher, Director of Automotive Testing for Consumer Reports acknowledges that advanced safety features like the ones shown in the Hyundai ad are useful and can lessen the severity of an accident or even prevent one in some situations, he says it’s “irresponsible to suggest in any way that someone could rely on them and drive in a less safe way. There is already confusion about what advanced safety tech is capable of, and this ad could make things even worse.”

We reached out to Hyundai regarding the concerns about the behavior shown in this ad, and a spokesman for the carmaker says it will take a second look at the spot.

“We will review the commercial to determine if changes are required and if safe driving practices are not at the level we think are necessary we’ll act accordingly,” the rep tells Consumerist. “Of course, the safety of our customers is paramount.”

Last year, Mercedes-Benz stopped running an ad for its E-Class line that described the car as a “vehicle that can drive itself,” after Consumer Reports and others called for a Federal Trade Commission investigation.