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Mercedes-Benz DRIVE PILOT to offer Level 3 Autonomy by 2023

Written by Thembani Magazi – July 29, 2021

Reviewed by Asaf Kedem

We all know that the Mercedes-Benz EQS will be stacked full of high tech, industry-defining features. One of these features is reportedly the new level 3 DRIVE PILOT semi-automated driving system. Level 3 means the driver does not have to pay attention when the vehicle is in control, but still needs to be ready to take over if requested. Simple enough to wrap one’s head around. What’s not so simple is the execution of complex driving tasks at this level.

The hardware for the system incorporates lidar, a road moisture sensor, microphones, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and a very high-resolution GPS to ensure the car’s perception is world-class. It even includes driver-facing cameras to check that the person in the driver’s seat is still there and awake. The technology is limited for now; only being used for low-speed stop-and-go situations and there is currently a speed cap of just around 60 km/h. Mercedes is leaving open the possibility of higher-speed highway driving in future software updates.

There are some concerns, however. If Level 2 has taught us anything it’s that people can’t always be relied upon to take over a task that a machine was doing at a moderate degree of difficulty. Level 2 assumes that you will always be alert and ready to take over even when that is evidently not the case. These problems could potentially be even worse for Level 3, because at this level, the car is capable of driving without any sort of attention or input from the driver. The human could quite literally entertain their hands by reading or playing games even though they might still be demanded to take the wheel with minimal to no warning. That is a problem and a potential recipe for disaster. What if the driver cannot be adequately roused? DRIVE PILOT’s answer to this is to have the vehicle stop in its lane and turn on the hazard lights essentially bringing it to a standstill. In real-world driving situations this is not exactly practical or ideal. There is still sometime between now and when Mercedes-Benz plans to debut the system in 2023. Still some time to iron out the kinks, we feel.

Auto Trendy’s take:

“Drive Pilot” seems like an impressive feature to add to an already class leading model. We are curious to see if the system will have more success than some of its more glitchy rivals over at BMW and Audi. Both have made attempts at a hands-free autonomous driving experience recently. The other two seem to have hit stumbling blocks with their systems that we at Auto Trendy hope Mercedes avoid as they roll out DRIVE PILOT to their S-Class and EQS models. The system so far does leave a little to be desired in terms of practical usability in the rare events that a driver cannot be roused effectively. For most people if Level 3 autonomous driving means putting a stop to traffic in a busy lane then they’d rather the option be left out altogether. Still, as far from perfect as it is we hope the company lives up to their famous slogan: the best or nothing!

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