Mercedes first to take autonomous driving to next ‘level 3’
Next year, Mercedes is allowed to put SAE Level 3 of autonomous driving into practice. The premium car-builder from Stuttgart has won the approval of The German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) to let its customers use the most advanced version of Drive Pilot in certain areas.
In the race toward self-driving vehicles, the German car manufacturer has now surpassed other trailblazers like Tesla, Audi, or Volvo. These remain at level 2. The legally permitted speed is 60 kph. The decision was based on requirements laid out by the United Nations.
The approval is a milestone for adopting autonomous drive in passenger cars and an essential win for Mercedes. It won’t come as a surprise that the flagship S-Class will be the first Mercedes to take over the wheel from its owner. Its electric sibling EQS follows suit. Both models will offer it as of mid-2022.
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Stretches of Autobahn in dense traffic conditions are where the system will be allowed for use. Mercedes says Drive Pilot level 3 covers 13 191 kilometers of Geman highway.
It allows drivers to take their eyes and minds off the traffic and focus on secondary activities, such as communicating with colleagues via In-Car Office, surfing the internet, or relaxing while watching a film. These infotainment applications are automatically unblocked while the car takes control of the driving.
This is a substantial difference with level 2 systems, where the driver can release control but still has to monitor the car while it executes the driving. He or she is supposed to take control almost instantly if the situation demands it. Due to a technically sophisticated sensory armor level 3 cars can make informed decisions, e.g., overtaking, by themselves.
Next to lidar, radar, ultrasonic sensors, and optical cameras, this requires a highly accurate positioning system as well as a microphone (for picking up sirenes from priority vehicles) and a wet sensor (to detect weather).
Audi and Honda
The first limousine with level 3 ability was the current generation of the Audi A8. But after launch, Audi withdrew its most advanced Traffic Jam Pilot due to approval and liability issues (which is handed over to the carmaker in this case).
The Honda Legend was the first car worldwide to put level 3 into practice in Japan, although in a limited run.