BMW made headlines recently by claiming its next-gen 7 Series would boast Level 3 autonomous driving right out of the box. BMW also made the claim that we wouldn’t see any other Level 3 cars anytime soon. “In the next years you will not see a single launch where somebody says here’s my car and it’s Level 3,” said Frank Weber, director of development for BMW. However, not only has another Level 3 car been announced, it will come to market before BMW’s 7 Series — the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
According to a recent press release, Mercedes-Benz’s new Level 3 autonomous driving system is called DRIVE PILOT and will arrive on the S-Class in the first half of 2022. It’s also said to be the first ever system to meet the strict UN-R157 global legal requirements for Level 3 systems. That means it will be legal to use in any market that allows for such systems. Germany is the first country that it will be allowed in but Mercedes-Benz is also testing in the US and Chinese markets, for future use.
Being a Level 3 system it really works as a limited-use autonomous driving system for only certain situations. In the case of DRIVE PILOT, it’s mostly traffic jams. Similar to Audi’s Level 3 Traffic Jam Assist, DRIVE PILOT is mostly for slow moving traffic on densely packed highways.
The idea is to create a system that can take over for the driver; and operate the car entirely, during those limited traffic situations. The system needs a clear lane markers, dense traffic, and speeds up to 37 mph. Not only will the car accelerate, steer, and brake on its own, it can even follow navigation information and adjust for unexpected traffic situations with either evasive or braking maneuvers.
The system uses LiDAR, as well as cameras around the car, microphones to detect emergency vehicle sirens, and even moisture in the wheel wells. It also gets detailed information about the road its on, using digital mapping on the backend.
Of course, the system requires the driver to respond to prompts, to insure they’re alert and paying attention. If the driver fails to respond to such prompts, the car will safely slow itself to a stop while flashing the hazard lights. Once the car is at a stop, it will call the Mercedes-Benz emergency system and unlock the doors and windows, to make sure first responders have easy access to the vehicle. The reason for that is because Mercedes-Benz feels the only reason a driver shouldn’t be able to respond to its system’s prompts is due to severe health issue. Not jumping in the backseat to make a fun video for YouTube…
While the system will launch on the S-Class, it will also be made available for Mercedes-Benz’s new all-electric luxury car, the EQS. Which means when BMW’s 7 Series debuts, it will have two competitors in the world of Level 3 autonomy.