Mercedes to Offer Level-3 Autonomous Driving on the Next S-Class
Luxury automaker Mercedes Benz announced that the next S-Class, the company's flagship sedan, will offer Level 3 autonomous driving technology, allowing drivers to take their eyes off the road in certain situations. The announcement was first reported by Automotive News.
Ola Kaellenius, head of research at Mercedes Benz, made the announcement at last week's Paris Auto Show. Kaellenius told reporters that the technology will be made available in the next S-Class and will eventually be added to other models in the company's lineup.
Kaellenius joined Mercedes in 1993 and was selected to succeed Dieter Zetsche as Daimler and Mercedes CEO. His tenure begins in May.
"We are on the verge of jumping to Level 3, which is our target for the next S class," Kaellenius said to reporters. "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."
The Level 3 autonomous driving means that the vehicle can manage most aspects of driving, including monitoring the surroundings. Although Level 3 systems allow a driver to take their eyes off the road, the system is not considered fully-autonomous, meaning a driver must still monitor the road ahead. The system will prompt the driver to intervene if the car encounters a scenario it cannot navigate.
Mercedes Benz's German rival Audi debuted the world's first eyes-off Level 3 system in th 2019. A8 sedan. The A8 has been equipped to begin offering the technology to customers as soon as Audi receives regulatory approval to sell the system, as regulators in Europe continue to debate with automakers the safety risks involved with the technology. In addition, BMW is planning to offer its own Level 3 system by 2021.
When asked by reporters whether Mercedes' technology would arrive before BMW, Kaellenius indicated Mercedes would be first. "The next S class is due for 2020, so the timeframe should be realistic," he said.
Other automakers, including Tesla and General Motors, currently offer Level 2 autonomous driving systems, which allow the vehicle to steer, accelerate brake, and maintain lane position during highway driving. However, the driver must be ready to take control at all times. Tesla's Autopilot, Audi's Traffic Jam Assist and Cadillac's Super Cruise are all examples of Level 2 autonomous systems that are currently approved for use on roads in the U.S.
Current U.S. regulations do not allow for more advanced Level 3 autonomous systems installed in vehicles being sold in the United States. However, Germany recently legalized more advanced autonomous driving features, allowing motorists to transfer operation of the vehicle to its onboard computer.
Daimler eventually plans improve upon its autonomous driving systems to the point where a driver no longer has to monitor the road at all times. The automaker is also working with Robert Bosch to develop a fully autonomous vehicle for use in robotaxi fleets.
In July, Mercedes and Bosch announced that they will launch a self-driving vehicle shuttle service in Silicon Valley in the second half of 2019.
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