Mercedes-Benz Cars says it plans to release “Drive Pilot,” a conditionally automated Level 3 system for automated driving in Germany for S-Class and EQS, for sale May 17, making Mercedes the first car manufacturer in the world with self-driving system with internationally valid certification.
Tesla has been battling U.S. safety regulators about the company’s self-driving system, which it also describes as the most advanced in the industry. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during a recent conference call with investors he expects to have a “Level Four” system ready by the end of 2022 and even encouraged Tesla owners to join in on the ongoing “Beta Tests” of the system.
General Motors also is pressing ahead with a new self-driving system, which borrows technology from Cruise, GM’s automated driving unit. GM’s Ultra Cruise Level 2 autonomous system will be available on the Cadillac’s brands new EV models starting in 2023. GM says with Ultra Cruise it expects the driver to be ready to retake control of the vehicle at any time, such as in an emergency or when the vehicle enters an area not mapped for the system’s capabilities.
First to market
Mercedes-Benz was the world’s first car manufacturer to receive internationally valid system approval for conditionally automated driving in December 2021.
The German automaker said when activated Drive Pilot controls the speed and distance and guides the vehicle within its lane while analyzing the route and traffic signs. It also reacts to unexpected traffic situations and handles them with evasive maneuvers or braking.
The system builds on the vehicle sensing technology of the Driving Assistance Package and includes additional sensors the manufacturer considers indispensable for safe operation. These mainly include radar, lidar and cameras, but ultrasound and moisture sensors also provide valuable data.
“Mercedes-Benz is the first manufacturer to put a Level 3 system with international valid certification into series production. As a first step, we are offering this world-leading technology in Germany in the S-Class and the EQS,” said Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes‑Benz Group AG, responsible for Marketing & Sales.
“At the same time, we also want to receive certification in the U.S. by the end of the year. Responsible handling of future technologies such as conditional automated driving is the key to acceptance among customers and in society. With Drive Pilot, we have developed an innovative technology that, thanks to redundancies with many sensors, enables safe operation and gives the asset ‘time’ back to the customer.”
Offered as pricey option
The Drive Pilot option will cost $5,400 in Mercedes S-Class and $8,024 in the EQS where it is bundled in a driver assistance package.
In parallel to the successful launch of Drive Pilot in Germany, Mercedes-Benz aims to obtain regulatory series approval in California and Nevada by the end of the year, provided the legal situation permits the system operation.
Engineers, lawyers, compliance managers, data protection officers and ethics experts have all worked together in the development process. For safety-relevant functions, such as pedestrian detection, Mercedes-Benz’ engineers deliberately do not use algorithms, for example, through self-learning approaches. The focus is more on what is known as “supervised learning,” which means Mercedes-Benz defines and controls what the artificial intelligence is allowed to learn.
Before the AI software is used on the roads, extensive validation testing is carried out to ensure that the AI works as desired in real traffic conditions. In the case of pedestrian detection, AI helps the system to identify objects and situations on and next to the road quickly and safely.
The car manufacturer’s ethical requirement is that the detection process is non-discriminatory. This means that the vehicle’s various sensors permanently monitor the road and the roadside, to always detect people correctly, regardless of their clothing, body size, posture or other characteristics.
Mercedes‑Benz has been offering advanced driver assistance systems in its vehicles for years. The systems can make life much easier in many everyday situations and assist with speed and distance control, steering or lane changes.