As the world’s first car manufacturer, Mercedes will be allowed to sell a level 3 driver assistance system from 2022. In this way, the S-Class comes a little closer to autonomous driving.
From 2024, every newly delivered Mercedes will have the system called Nvidia Drive, as Nvidia and Daimler have already announced. The SoC called Orin is based on the Ampere architecture and includes, for example, a system software stack for AI applications. Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia want to jointly develop automated driving functions that include, for example, an automated level 4 parking function. As early as the first half of 2022, customers will be able to buy the Drive Pilot from the Swabian car manufacturer and thus be able to drive at speeds of up to 60 km / h in traffic jams, as Mercedes announced in a press release.
Autonomous driving is only allowed up to 60 km / h in traffic jams
Mercedes-Benz is the first car manufacturer to bring a car onto the market that meets the legal requirements of UN-R157 for level 3 vehicles. Although the Bavarian competitor Audi had already presented the A8 with a traffic jam assistant in 2017 and sold it on the market, no A8 driver has been able to activate the level 3 system because the permit is missing.
Only now, in December 2021, has the Federal Motor Transport Authority certified the Level 3 system for both the S-Class and the fully electric version called EQS. Initially, the Drive Pilot option in Germany can only be used on certain motorways. In other countries, highly automated driving is still not available and is in the test phase. The Drive Pilot can take over vehicle control in traffic jams up to a maximum of 60 km / h on German autobahns and, for example, initiate braking maneuvers independently. While the Drive Pilot is working, the driver can watch a film or answer e-mails on the central touchscreen, but must always keep an eye on the steering wheel and be ready to take control.
Lidar sensors and redundancy
S-Classes or Mercedes EQS that have already been delivered or ordered cannot be equipped with the Drive Pilot. Only vehicles ordered from mid-December 2021 can drive up with the Drive Pilot – for a surcharge. In addition to the sensors from the driver assistance package, Mercedes also installed a lidar sensor and a camera with a microphone in the rear window so that the vehicle can detect blue lights from emergency vehicles. There is also a moisture sensor in the wheel arch. The on-board network is redundant, as is the steering and braking system. In this way, the driver can take over the steering again at any time if, for example, the automated driving system fails.
In addition to the sensors and the additional systems, the Drive Pilot uses an HD navigation map that is transferred from the data center to the car via an integrated E-SIM card. In contrast to normal map material, the HD maps offer a detailed junction and lane model as well as greater accuracy. Mercedes has not yet communicated what the additional Drive Pilot option will cost and how expensive the necessary HD cards will be.
Different levels of autonomous driving
The Association of Automotive Engineers SAE has defined in five levels what semi-autonomous and autonomous driving is. There are currently no vehicles that support level 5. Not a single manufacturer speaks of level 5 anymore, as this describes autonomous driving without a control unit, which has to work everywhere and under all environmental conditions.
The Tesla autopilot, which is now known as Full Self Driving, has reached a beta status in the USA. FSD, which is based on the “Tesla Autopilot”, is not fully autonomous driving. Rather, Tesla can navigate independently in selected cities in the USA, but the driver must be ready at all times and be able to intervene in an emergency. If you take the five levels of automated driving from the Association of Automotive Engineers SAE as a basis, then Tesla’s Full Self-Driving is at level 3. When the electric car manufacturer will bring FSD to Germany is still open.