A United Nations standards-setting body, the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, has ratified a framework document to allow Level 3 self-driving that will facilitate national regulations. A key point has been the transfer of liability to the automaker from the driver in the event of an accident.
While Level 3 negotiations continue, German lawmakers are also debating a bill that would allow Level 4 vehicles – such as so-called robotaxis – to operate in controlled situations.
A number of automakers already offer advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that take over driving functions – but the driver must, at least, keep his hands on the steering wheel, meaning they are classified as Level 2 or Level 2 Plus. Mercedes says that with its Level 3 Drive Pilot, “the driver can turn away from what is happening on the road and engage in certain secondary activities” such as surfing the web, interacting with business colleagues on Daimler’s In-Car Office, “or enjoying a relaxing seat massage.”
Those activities do not include sleeping, looking to the rear for extended periods or leaving the driver’s seat. Cameras monitor head and eyelid movements to ensure drivers are following the rules.
When prompted, the driver must take control, and Mercedes says the driver must always be ready to do so. If for some reason the driver does not or cannot retake the wheel, the EQS will be brought to a stop, warning flashers are activated, doors and windows are unlocked, and an automatic emergency call is made.
Mercedes says the Drive Pilot system builds on the existing driving assistance package by adding additional sensors, including Lidar, an extra camera in the rear window, and microphones that can help detect the presence of emergency vehicles.
The Drive Pilot option also comes with redundant steering, braking and electrical systems as safety measures, and Mercedes says all algorithms are calculated twice.
Off public roads, the EQS is set up for a Level 4 system: It can park and unpark itself without a driver, in lots equipped with automatic valet parking (AVP) infrastructure, via a smartphone app. A similar system is available from Tesla.