In violation of the Highway Code, several drivers have been reading e-mails in the car for quite some time. And, perhaps, they also shop online. From next year they will be able to do both and even watch movies without risking penalties. This is a privilege that future customers of the Mercedes S-Class and its electric version, the EQS, will have: the first production cars in the world to have a level 3 system for homologated autonomous driving. Specifically by KBA, the German Federal Office of Transport.
Currently, similar functions already exist, but they are still without official authorization. Germany had anticipated the times by preparing the legal environment for the next step of assisted driving already in 2017 according to the EU directive UN-R157. The premium brand has taken advantage of this opportunity by writing a new page of history. At least for now, the function can be used legally up to 60 hours per hour and along just under 13,200 kilometers of German motorways. In short, the use is still limited, but Mercedes is hoping for a rapid extension to other countries of the Old Continent. Then (the tests are underway) it will be up to the United States and China, even if the deadlines are all to be determined.
“We have prepared for the moon landing,” summed up Markus Schäfer, head of development at Daimler. The revolution is linked to the different responsibility of the driver, who in any case must always be able to take back the controls. And yet, since all data is stored (the cyber security parameters have also been met), liability in the event of accidents can also be attributed to the new Mercedes Drive Pilot function. In the KBA press release it is referred to as ALKS, which stands for Automated Lane Keeping System.
The same authority specifies that it is a device that “does not oblige the driver to constantly check” the car, which keeps its distance within the same lane and controls its pace. For this he can concentrate on videos, e-mails or purchases, all to be managed through the car’s central display. The restrictions on speed and methods of use are those of the Community standard. On the net there are videos in which Tesla drivers read the newspaper: this possibility is still legally excluded and, in fact, the American manufacturer and its customers have repeatedly ended up in the eye of the storm.
The function, which will be on request, should cost a few thousand euros and can be ordered starting next year. First it will be installed on the S-Class and then also on the EQS, with the first deliveries expected before the summer. The function, Mercedes informs, is based on the very high accuracy of the satellite localization system (much better than GPS, they say from Stuttgart) whose data are crossed with those of high-definition maps and those collected by cameras, radars, sensors. ultrasound and Lidar. With the Drive Pilot active, the two models of the house with the Star will be able to carry out the maneuvers necessary to travel in slow motorway traffic situations. The system draws the driver’s attention if he has to regain control of the car: if he does not, the car reduces its speed until it stops safely, also alerting the manufacturer’s emergency service.