Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot Now in US
Mercedes-Benz has made a significant move in the autonomous vehicle frontier with its Drive Pilot, a self-driving car set to be introduced in the United States. States like California and Nevada are expected to see the innovative vehicle on their roads in the coming months. Drive Pilot is furnished with an SAE Level 3 autonomy system, a rarity in the market. This system takes the driver’s liability off their hands when the vehicle is in control, a feature anticipated by many automobile enthusiasts.
The Capabilities and Limitations of Drive Pilot
Despite its advanced automated driving system, the Drive Pilot comes with its restrictions. The system operates optimally in clear weather conditions and only on highways that have been mapped by Here’s HD maps. The car also needs to be following another vehicle to function properly. Furthermore, it has a speed limit of 40 mph, marking a boundary on its usage.
While the system takes over the driving, it does not give the driver a free pass to engage in activities like sleeping, turning around for extended periods, or using their phone. Even though these restrictions might seem somewhat limiting, Mercedes-Benz assures that this is only the start. The auto giant promises that future iterations will include more use-cases and higher operational speeds.
The Green Light from Government
Mercedes-Benz takes the trophy for being the first automaker to receive government approval in the US for a Level 3 driving feature. This approval was granted after the company successfully self-certified in Nevada that its Drive Pilot feature meets the state’s minimal risk condition requirement. The requirement stipulates that Level 3 or higher fully autonomous vehicles should be able to stop if there is a system malfunction. This serves to mitigate potential risks and enhance road safety.
Comparing Drive Pilot to Other Self-Driving Systems
Drive Pilot stands shoulder to shoulder with hands-free highway driving systems such as GM’s Super Cruise, Ford’s BlueCruise, and Tesla’s Autopilot. These systems allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel and feet off the pedals under specific conditions. However, unlike Level 2 systems, which require drivers to keep their eyes on the road, the Drive Pilot system offers more flexibility. Despite this flexibility, the driver must keep their face visible to the vehicle’s in-car cameras at all times. This means that while drivers can turn their head to talk to a passenger or play a game on the vehicle’s infotainment screen, they cannot take a nap or ride in the backseat.
Future Risks and Concerns
Despite the advancement, Level 3 systems are not without their risks. Many autonomous vehicle operators, including renowned names like Waymo and Cruise, have voiced concerns about Level 3’s potential dangers. The key reason for this is the need for drivers to stay attentive while the vehicle performs most of the driving tasks. Studies have indicated that the hand-off between an automated system and a human driver can be especially fraught. When people have been disconnected from driving for a longer period, they may overreact when suddenly taking control in an emergency situation. This overreaction can potentially lead to dangerous, and even fatal, scenarios.
Subscribe to BNN Breaking
Sign up for our daily newsletter covering global breaking news around the world.