Mercedes-Benz, based in Germany is the world’s first automaker to gain regulatory approval with international validity for production of Level 3 Autonomous vehicles or with “conditionally automated driving”.
Germany became the first country after adoption of Road Traffic Act for Level 3 systems in 2017 to harmonize its legal basis for introduction of Level 3 driving aids with Mercedes-Benz announcement of the advanced Drive Pilot driving-assistance system. It is fair to mention that Mercedes-Benz is not the first in introduction of a Level 3 self-driving car. Honda Legend with its advanced Honda Sensing-system capable of Level 3 autonomy should be credited for that though it is available for lease in its Japanese home market only. In addition, Audi with its model A8 was almost prepared to have Level 3 autonomy in 2017 when plans were changed due to legislation reasons at that time.
While Level 2 system gives partial hands-free driving capability Level 3 or “conditionally automated driving” enables the vehicle to react to environmental circumstances as well as make decisions without driver’s necessity of taking control on the vehicle. Following activation of Drive Pilot Function using buttons above steering wheel’s thumb rests, Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot system takes control of driving speed and keeps distance while independently performing braking or evasive maneuvers – all without physical driver intervention using sensors like LiDAR, microphones plus additional rear window camera, together with utilization of road geometry, traffic signs, route profiles and traffic events from a high-precision positioning system and a digital HD map.
While Drive Pilot Level 3 autonomy is engaged driver’s attention can be focused on secondary activities, according to Mercedes-Benz, e.g. surfing the web, having a snack or even watching a movie. In case of sudden equipment failure, Drive Pilot has redundant steering, braking, and electrical systems for control from driver. Drive Pilot automatically slows down to vehicle’s complete stop after “increasingly urgent prompting and expiry of takeover time” in cases when medical emergency appears for which Drive Pilot system will engage hazard lights, unlock doors and windows while initiating first responders’ emergency calls.
Mercedes-Benz Drive Smart Level 3 autonomous driving system features will become available in EQS Electric Luxury and S-Class Luxury vehicles for Europe by early 2022.