“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.
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.
First worldwide approval
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.