Self-driving cars have been on the radar of the automotive industry for a while now but while the technology is certainly making leaps and bounds, at the time of writing there are currently no entirely self-driving cars available today. There are a number of issues that manufacturers will have to face and untangle in order to produce fully autonomous cars, but Mercedes-Benz have taken the first major step with the approval of a Level 3 driving system. Previously, the closest thing to autonomous driving that we have has been Level 2, such as in the GM Super Cruise and Ford’s Blue Cruise system.
Typically, a Level 2 system will have the ability to handle steering and acceleration in normal driving conditions, however a human driver should still maintain alertness and be ready to take control at all times to ensure safety and efficient driving, Level 3, on the other hand, takes this a step further – it’s expected that a Level 3 Drive Pilot seen on Mercedes vehicles could handle itself in most driving situations, effectively making it possible for drivers to focus on other things while the car is on the move. However, how safe is it really to take your eyes off the road?
Mercedes’ Drive Pilot, set to be launched in 2024, seems to be hailed as the first automotive OEM-introduced system that has reached Level 3 and the first within that level to make it to standard production on vehicles that will be used on public roads. This technology is set to be available on the 2023 S-Class and EQS sedan models, though it seems to initially only be available in Nevada and California where it meets given restrictions.
Drive Pilot can take over for drivers on high-traffic roads, such as ‘freeway’ sections up to speeds of 40mph. It can control speed, distance, and guide the vehicle within it’s chosen lane. It can react to unexpected traffic situations using evasive manoeuvres or by braking, as well as adjust speed according to need, using road and traffic signs to ensure these moves are being done safely and within the law. It also uses the following to help:
- Redundant steering and braking
- Redundant on-board electrician system
- Emergency controlled braking
- Road wetness sensor
- Emergency call system
- Automated door unlocking for first-responders
- Microphones to detect emergency vehicles
- Rear window cameras
- Prompting for driver to take control back
If the driver fails to take back control of the vehicle when prompted, the system will force the vehicle to a standstill in a controlled manner. The hazard lights will also flash as the car comes to a stop, and the emergency response will be called as a result.
The biggest worry about this system seems to rest in driver response, and whether drivers will be too distracted to take back control when they need to. If a driver doesn’t have their eyes on the road, it could take them several seconds to respond to the car’s prompting them to take control which, in adverse situations, could lead to accidents. This has been an issue with Level 1 and 2 vehicles so far, but Level 3 could bring this issue even further into light as drivers are being effectively told they don’t have to pay any attention to the road.
For now, it seems that Mercedes are introducing this slowly to determine where and how they can improve upon the system. It will only be available in limited situations, usually at lower speeds. However, even with this in place, many of the laws regarding how much attention needs to be paid even within an autonomous vehicle ultimately depends on the location in which you’re driving. In short, getting a straight answer as to the legality of these systems and how to use them could still be a long time away.
Here at DDR Surrey, we love keeping up with new Mercedes technology and this is no exception. Keep your eyes on our blog for updates and in the meantime, our mechanics are on hand to answer any questions about your existing Mercedes vehicle, or to book your vehicle in for servicing or repairs as needed. Simply get in touch with a member of our team, today.