Full-on autonomous vehicles won’t be here for years. That’s due to legal, as well as technical, hurdles. However, some automakers are inching along toward that future with various types of assisted self-driving tech. The systems require that the driver continuously pay some attention. All this, while the onboard autonomous computer controls a portion of the driver functions. Today, Tesla’s “Autopilot” and General Motors’ “Super Cruise” systems are considered Advanced-Level 2 assisted driving technology. In other words, a system that is able to drive the car, even while requiring drivers to pay attention to what’s going on with the road.
However, quietly, automakers are moving toward Level 3 assisted driving. That’s what the next generation of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class will offer as early as 2020. That made Gildshire stand up and take notice. Automotive News helped with our research.
We are on the verge of jumping to Level 3, which is our target for the next S-Class,” Ola Kaellenius, Daimler’s head of research and future CEO, told reporters during the Paris Motor Show. “That is something that you can then buy as an option, and you can proliferate it relatively quickly into higher volumes – especially with a brand like Mercedes.”
Level 3 assisted driving is technically referred to as “Conditional Automation.” In other words, the driver can take his/her eyes away from the road ahead (Or, I suppose, behind if the driver chooses to let the car handle reverse.) However, the driver must be ready to take over when the vehicle requests help. Under normal conditions, though, the tech can do the driving, scanning the surroundings for hazards.
If, as planned, Mercedes-Benz can fit the S-Class with the new tech, they will beat BMW’s iNext car to market by a full year. Only Audi already has a Level 3 system on the road in the A8.
Of course, there are legal hurdles to even this technology’s implementation. Autonomous systems between automakers aren’t uniform. Regulators continue to debate any and all possible safety risks within the Level 3 systems.
Developers, though, feel encouraged by the test results. Incidents involving self-drive vehicles aren’t always the result of system limitations or malfunctions. Instead, inattentive drivers cause an accident. These Level 3 systems have the potential to make driving, for everyone, safer.
Gildshire supports that kind of thing. We will continue to monitor the self-drive news as it breaks.