A radio ad for the BMW 1 Series car with high-beam assist technology, heard on 11 February 2016, stated "Oncoming traffic is never dazzled and you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road".
The complainant challenged whether the claim "Oncoming traffic is never dazzled" was misleading and could be substantiated.
BMW (UK) Ltd explained that High Beam Assist illuminated the road at night with full beam, without dazzling other road users. This was achieved by a sensor located in the rear view mirror holder, at a height similar to the driver's eyes, which monitored oncoming traffic and immediately adjusted the light beam where necessary, so as not to dazzle other road users. They explained that the system detected oncoming traffic at large distances: up to 1,000 metres for oncoming traffic (by detecting their headlights); and up to 400 metres for traffic ahead (by detecting their tail lights). The measurements were relevant to straight roads and they said EC regulations required measurements on straight lines/distances. They said that at 400 m, the minimum distance at which the technology responded, the typical BMW driving light would be below one illuminance range, a level which technically could not be described as being dazzling and therefore other drivers would never be dazzled.
BMW said that if a vehicle approached from a curve, it was possible that there would be a delay of approximately 600 milliseconds to one second until the sensor detected the lights of the oncoming car and turned down the high beam. They believed that delay was not long enough for oncoming traffic to be dazzled.
They said the Oxford dictionary described "dazzle" as being 'if a strong light dazzles you, it is so bright that you cannot see for a short time'. Because the system reacted within a split second, they believed that at the distances concerned, it was not enough to blind someone for a short period of time.
BMW said they also made the claim "traffic is never dazzled" on the basis that the system was quick and consistent to respond, whereas human response times might not be as reliable due to factors such as driver fatigue, poor weather conditions, poor visibility and the speed at which the driver and oncoming traffic were travelling. They also pointed out that many people were not experienced at night-time driving and their response to oncoming traffic and dipping of the high-beam might not be immediate.
Radiocentre supported BMW's comments.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to interpret the claim "oncoming traffic is never dazzled" as an absolute claim, meaning the High Beam Assist technology ensured that oncoming drivers were never dazzled under any circumstances.
We understood that the technology had been tested on straight roads and that in those circumstances, the sensor detected oncoming traffic at a distance of 1,000 m and reacted by turning off the high beam. We considered that at that distance, drivers were unlikely to be dazzled. However, we understood that whilst the sensor could detect the headlamps from oncoming traffic at 1,000 m on straight roads, that was not the case on roads which curved, and there would be circumstances when the sensor would detect oncoming traffic approaching from around a bend at much shorter distances. We understood that there might be a delay of up to one second before the technology turned the high beam off. We considered that a second of full beam light could potentially dazzle an oncoming driver at short distances, for example, on a sharp bend. Because of that, we considered that the claim "Oncoming traffic is never dazzled" had not been substantiated and was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service. (Exaggeration) and 20.5 20.5 Motoring advertisements must not exaggerate the benefit of safety features to consumers or suggest that a vehicle's features enable it to be driven or ridden faster or in complete safety. (Motoring).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told BMW to ensure that in future their ads did not exaggerate the capability of the High Beam Assist technology.