I’ll give Mercedes-Benz credit: I didn’t expect to hear from them after my recent story comparing their DrivePilot to Tesla’s Autopilot. I took a flamethrower to Stuttgart’s latest semi-autonomous driving technology, calling it a disaster—and, worse, potentially unsafe. In a world where manufacturers regularly attempt to sidestep bad press, Mercedes could easily have stayed silent.
Then, six days after Musk gloatingly retweeted the story, my phone rang.
I should note that it’s rare for a blatantly negative review to appear in the mainstream media for any consumer product, let alone about a juggernaut brand whose tagline is “The Best or Nothing.” When one does show up, it’s generally centered around criteria with little real-world impact—things like design, or zero-to-sixty times. Criticizing a major manufacturer for a perceived issue at the heart of their latest safety technology is basically unheard of.