This is our in-depth review of the Mercedes S-Class level 3 autonomous driving real-world test on US highway in LA!
Mercedes S-Class level 3 autonomous driving real-world test on US highway in LA!
Mercedes-Benz is trying to beat Tesla at its own game, and on the same turf, as the new Level 3 autonomous driving system installed on the 2022 S-Class is introduced in the United States. For the first time ever, an established and well-known car manufacturer looks like it is ready to accept blame if the autonomous driving systems don’t work as intended.
Lucas Bolster works as an engineer at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America. He met with journalists from Autogefuhl to showcase what the new Level 3 autonomous system can do. The technology comprises a plethora of cameras, sensors, radars, mapping, powerful processors, and two GPS antennas that work together to ensure the vehicle follows all road rules and to keep the driver and passengers safe.
The host and the Mercedes-Benz employee go for a drive in the 2022 S-Class on the I-10 highway near Los Angeles, when this all-important question is asked: “If the car is in the Level 3 mode, will the manufacturer be liable?” The answer is yes! Bolster says: “Yes, the car is the driver, it’s doing the dynamic driving task, and your job is just to remain ready to respond to its request for you to continue driving.”
The journalist looks for further confirmation of the fact that Mercedes-Benz is accepting liability for whatever unexpectedly bad happens when the Level 3 is active and asks if this is true even in the case of a crash. He’s met with the following answer: “an investigation might be needed to establish that.”
But that’s not all. The CEO of Mercedes-Benz U.S., Dimitris Psillakis, also confirmed it in a talk with the press before the event started unfolding and added, according to Autogefuhl, that at the moment there’s no special insurance or compensation fund created for such cases. And there might be a very good reason for that.
Here’s the catch.
The autonomous driving system Mercedes-Benz has now on the new S-Class works only on “Drive Pilot-ready” roads, which means it can’t be activated everywhere. The car has a high-definition map that includes the routes on which the Level 3 system can be turned on.
Moreover, it’s doing its job only if you’re going under 40 mph (64 kph), there are detectable lane markings, and there’s a car it can follow! So, the possibility of an accident is slim to none because Drive Pilot requires all these conditions to be met before it will activate. For example, once the vehicle it follows exits the lane or accelerates, it will disengage and require your control, even if you’re still on the pre-approved road.
In the end, yes, it’s an important milestone that’s been reached here. Mercedes-Benz becomes the first passenger carmaker that publicly admits it will take responsibility if its Level 3 autonomous system fails and causes a crash. But the restrictive conditions are too conservative for now and reveal a safe play from the automaker.
One could even start believing this might turn into a ploy to make other carmakers give up on their progress made with autonomous driving just to turn to be liable into a norm for the industry. The battle has begun. It will be long and complicated, especially when you’re reminded of the politicians that have to regulate all this.