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Mercedes-Benz Says its Will Accept Liability for the Safety of its DRIVE PILOT Hands-Free, Level-3 Autonomous Driving System

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【Summary】Mercedes-Benz has always been a pioneer in safety innovation and developed a Level-3 system called “Drive Pilot”, that allows a driver to read a book or even watch a movie on the car’s infotainment screen after it’s activated by the driver. The automaker has a high-level of confidence in Drive Pilot, so much so that Mercedes-Benz says its will accept full liability for any accidents as a result of using it.

Eric Walz    May 01, 2022 10:00 AM PT
Mercedes-Benz Says its Will Accept Liability for the Safety of its DRIVE PILOT Hands-Free, Level-3 Autonomous Driving System

The world's automakers are racing to develop level 2 and higher autonomous driving systems for their vehicles that allow for the most part, supervised autonomous highway driving capability. 

But Mercedes-Benz has always been a pioneer in safety innovation and developed a Level-3 system called "Drive Pilot", that allows a driver to read a book or even watch a movie on the car's infotainment screen after it's activated by the driver.

Drive Pilot takes over the driving tasks at speeds below 40 mph. The system is especially helpful in stop and go driving situations, such as heavy rush hour traffic. 

Drive Pilot is an advanced version of Mercedes Benz's Driving Assistance Package and includes additional sensors on the vehicle to support safe SAE Level-3 automated driving. 

The automaker has a high-level of confidence in Drive Pilot, so much so that Mercedes-Benz says its will accept full liability for any accidents as a result of using it, Road & Track reports.

The S-Class equipped with Drive Pilot has a fully-redundant steering and braking system, as well as a redundant electrical system. In the unlikely event that any of these redundant systems were to fail, control can still be handed back to the driver.

The sensor suite on the S-Class includes lidar, cameras and microphones. The microphones and cameras can detect the blue lights and audible sirens of emergency vehicles. Another innovative feature is a sensor in the wheel well of the S-Class to detect wet road conditions that may extend braking distance. 

Mercedes-Benz Cleared to Offer its DRIVE PILOT ‘Eyes Off the Road' Level-3 Autonomous Driving System on Vehicles in Germany

Drive Pilot doesn't require a drivers input, but the driver is expected to be ready to take over control if prompted by the vehicle.

In Dec 2021, Mercedes-Benz became the world's first automaker to receive approval to offer its optional Drive Pilot autonomous driving feature on vehicles sold in Germany. It's available on the new S-Class models.

The highly automated Drive Pilot system allows the driver to focus on other activities while it's active in heavy traffic or on congested highways. Once in Drive Pilot mode, applications such as movie streaming or games, can be enabled on the vehicle's central display that are otherwise blocked while driving.

In Germany, drivers can legally use their cellphones while Drive Pilot is engaged, which is also a first.

When the driver activates Drive Pilot using buttons on the steering wheel, it will automatically control the vehicle's speed and distance between other vehicles, as well as keep the car centered in a lane. Drive Pilot also reacts to unexpected traffic situations and handles them independently, such as emergency braking maneuvers.

Drive Pilot also receives information about the road geometry, route profile, traffic signs and unusual traffic events (e.g. accidents or roadworks) from a digital HD map. 

The exact location of the S-Class is determined using a highly accurate GPS system that's much more powerful than conventional GPS, according to Mercedes-Benz. To determine the exact position of the vehicle, data obtained from satellite navigation is matched with sensor data and data from an HD map. 

"With Drive Pilot, our Level 3 conditionally automated driving system, our customers gain the most valuable asset – time," says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Chief Technology Officer responsible for Development and Procurement. "In a first step, we are offering this world-leading technology to our customers in Germany, but will be rolling it out in the U.S. as well by the end of this year if the legal and regulatory framework allows." 

However, the U.S. currently lacks a regulatory framework surrounding the deployment of Level-3 autonomous driving systems. 

All of current systems on the market, including Tesla's Autopilot, Ford's Blue Cruise and General Motors' Super Cruise, are considered to be level-2 automated systems, meaning that drivers must pay attention to the road at all times, as well as keep their hands on the steering wheel whenever these systems are active. 

Although Drive Pilot is considered to be a Level 3 system, it still relies on the driver to be ready to take back control when prompted.

If the driver fails to take back control after being promoted due to a medical emergency, the system will bring the vehicle to a controlled stop and activate the hazard warning lights. Once the vehicle comes to a complete stop, the Mercedes-Benz emergency call system is activated and the doors and windows of the vehicle are automatically unlocked, in order to make access to the interior easier for any first responders.

Level 3 automated systems have been allowed in Germany since 2017. According to Mercedes-Benz, there are over 13,100 kilometers (8,140 miles) of roadways suitable for Drive Pilot in Germany.



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