Watching a movie when it’s jammed on the highway: that’s what Mercedes-Benz’s “Drive Pilot” system, marketed from mid-May in Germany, will allow, ahead of Tesla in the competitive niche of so-called autonomous driving “level 3”.
The system, which allows you to take your hands off the steering wheel and look away from the road in certain situations, will be offered to buyers of the German brand’s two most expensive models, the S-Class and its electric counterpart EQS, for 5,000 and 7,430 euros excluding taxes respectively, according to a press release this Friday.
The pilot must be able to intervene in less than ten seconds at all times
“Drive Pilot” as it will be sold, however, can only drive the vehicle without human intervention in certain specific situations: in the event of heavy traffic on the motorways, with a maximum speed of 60 km/h.
The device allows the driver to check emails, browse the internet or watch a movie on the car’s central screen. “Customers can relax or work,” notes Mercedes-Benz. But the pilot must be able at all times to intervene in less than ten seconds if the system asks him to. Otherwise, the car automatically stops “safely”.
To analyze its environment and decide on maneuvers, the EQS and the S-Class rely on a large number of sensors, including a LiDAR (laser ranging) system from the equipment manufacturer Valeo. From driver assistance to unmanned cars, a vehicle’s degree of autonomy has five levels.
“Level 2” at Tesla
At Tesla, the autonomous driving currently marketed is “level 2” and requires an attentive driver at all times, supervising the operations of the on-board computer. Elon Musk’s company, a pioneer in electric and autonomous mobility, is also under fire from criticism from the American regulator, who accuses it of having ignored its recommendations on the driver assistance system.
Germany is European pioneer of autonomous driving
Mercedes-Benz had obtained last December the first worldwide approval to market highly autonomous vehicles compliant with the UN-R157 standard, where local legislation authorizes it. After Germany, the manufacturer says it wants to obtain “by the end of the year” authorization for mass marketing in California and Nevada.
Germany is a European pioneer in autonomous driving: since 2017, level 3 driving has been authorized there. The Audi manufacturer thought of integrating this technology on its flagship, the A8, before retracting.
At the end of 2020, Japan became the first country in the world to homologate a level 3 autonomous system on public roads, integrated into a Honda Legend, marketed in a limited series in the spring of 2021.
The Stellantis group (Peugeot-Fiat) plans to implement its first level 3 system in 2024, developed with BMW.