Mercedes-Benz‘s chief technology officer says private buyers will be able to enjoy Level 4 autonomous driving by the end of this decade.
Automotive News reports word from Mercedes-Benz’s chief technology officer, Markus Schäfer, who said the technology is ‘doable’ by the end of the decade for privately owned cars.
Mercedes-Benz self-approved its Level 3 autonomy in the United States earlier this year, and is reportedly now looking to meet demand for Level 4 driving capabilities.
Mr Schäfer said he expects the demand for hands-free and eyes-free driving will be highest in markets with particularly congested cities, primarily in China where drivers can wait long periods of time in standstill traffic.
“Just imagine you are in a big city, and you come from work, and you are sitting for two hours in traffic, and you press the button and go to sleep,” said Mr Schäfer.
“There will be a demand for that.”
Level 4 driving requires no human attention, with hands-free and eyes-free autonomous driving within certain geographical limits and under certain weather restrictions.
Per the Society of Automotive Engineers’ levels of autonomy, the highest is Level 5 which allows for hands-free and eyes-free autonomous driving in any driving conditions.
Mercedes-Benz is expected to create a ‘technology package’ that has all the necessary hardware required to operate Level 4 autonomy even if the software is not ready for use.
Vehicles with the fitted hardware will reportedly receive over-the-air updates when the technology becomes available.
Laws around Level 4 autonomy vary from country to country. Germany passed a law in 2021 which allows Level 4 driving in certain public spaces.
In 2022, Mercedes-Benz received approval for a fully autonomous valet parking system to operate in Stuttgart Airport, Germany.
The system allows cars to drive into a reserved parking spot on their own with the software heavily relying on sensors in the garage to detect obstacles.
Other manufactures like BMW, Nissan, Honda, Stellantis, and the Hyundai Motor Group are already investing in Level 3 autonomy with the brands releasing vehicles in certain markets including Japan, South Korea and Germany.
Level 3 autonomy allows for hands-free driving, and drivers are theoretically allowed to play a game or turn to the passengers and have a conversation. However, they are required to stay alert as the system may disengage at any point.
Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Guidehouse, told Automotive News the parts required for a vehicle to feature the appropriate hardware for Level 4 autonomy can cost between 20-25 per cent more when compared to Level 3 but predicts carmakers could charge 50-100 per cent more at the point of sale.