Mercedes-Benz will take full legal responsibility for its cars when its Level 3 autonomous driving system is active.
Road & Track reports Mercedes-Benz is liable for any accidents caused when its Drive Pilot system is engaged, regardless of whether the driver is paying attention or not. Mercedes-Benz believes its willingness to bear liability for the Level 3 driving assist will help it earn approval from American regulators.
Mercedes-Benz owners will still be liable for any crashes caused when they’re driving and the Level 3 system is deactivated.
The Mercedes-Benz system goes a step further than current driver assists such as Tesla Autopilot, which require the driver to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while they’re active.
Mercedes-Benz has confirmed it’s seeking approval to use the system on California and Nevada highways below 64km/h (40mph) by the end of 2022.
The system is best used in heavy traffic or congested situations, where it is designed to take the strain off drivers.
Level 3 autonomous driving means a driver can take their hands off the steering wheel in certain situations like highways and traffic jams, and even take their eyes off the road.
The system gives 10 seconds of warning before handing control back to the driver if it encounters trouble.
The Drive Pilot system uses LiDAR, cameras, microphones, and a special wetness sensor in the wheel well to control the speed of the vehicle and the distance to the car ahead, and also guides the vehicle within its lane.
The system can also react to unexpected traffic situations and handle them independently, either moving within its lane or pulling off an emergency stop.
Road & Track was invited by Mercedes-Benz for a ride-along in a prototype demonstrating how Drive Pilot works.
The system only works during the daytime in clear weather without any overhead obstructions, according to media who’ve experienced it. Any stormy weather, construction zones, tunnels, or emergency vehicles will trigger a handover warning.
Road & Track noted the Drive Pilot system felt “noticeably smoother and more competent than any currently available semi-autonomous driver aid”.
One of the few other Level 3 autonomous vehicles currently available is the Japanese-market Honda Legend sedan, with its Traffic Jam Pilot system allowing it to navigate congested freeway traffic autonomously.
A similar Level 3 technology was shown off by Audi at the launch of its fourth-generation A8 sedan in 2017, but has since been delayed.
BMW Director of Development Frank Weber confirmed in an interview with Forbes Wheels the next-generation BMW 7 Series will debut with Level 3 autonomous driving.
The next-generation 7 Series is expected to debut in late 2022 or early 2023, but will most likely be shown as a concept during 2022.