New Mercedes Drive Pilot challenges Tesla with Level 3 technology
LOS ANGELES – This is the worst type of traffic in LA. Soaring inconsistencies, accelerating to 35-then-braking aggravate your last nerve. Oh, and there’s that driver aggressively changing lanes right in front of you, even though traffic in all lanes is pretty much jammed.
enter Mercedes-BenzDrive’s latest driver assistance system Pilot, which allows the car to take over and navigate this most tedious part of the commute, allowing you to take your hands off the wheel, your feet off the pedals, and look out onto the road. Really.
Drive Pilot is Mercedes‘participated in Level 3 self-driving, and a brief demonstration showed its potential in easing the stress of commuting. When combined with Bosch’s pending Automatic Parking system, Mercedes has integrated two technologies that take the worst part of driving out of the equation.
Of course, there are a lot of limitations to the Drive Pilot system: The system only works on well-marked, multi-lane, median highways at speeds below 40 mph. It must be daytime. Roads, tunnels or toll booths cannot be built. The weather cannot be extreme (rain is okay, snow is not). Drivers must take their seats. And the car will only drive in its existing lane.
During a short drive (as a passenger) in the new S 580 4Matic along the Santa Monica Freeway (aka “number 10”), the Drive Pilot system matched itself perfectly – basically It works like the smartest adaptive cruise control system. If the driver wants to compose an e-mail or watch a video, the system allows it. No need to keep your token finger on the wheel to stop the alert every 15 seconds. Our ‘driver’ – Lucas Bolster, lead engineer for autonomous driving at Mercedes R&D – said the Drive Pilot kept his hands free and eye-catching during a 65-minute rush hour on the road. this same road. In our brief demo, the acceleration and brake smooth, without any waiting stops, and no ping pong between the lane markings. That’s the best kind of driver.
At one point, a lane jumper suggested crossing into our right rear panel. The Pilot drove adamantly to the left side of the lane. The system will bring the vehicle to the furthest edge of the lane markings, but will not change lanes if certain other vehicles are intruded (it’s a future development that Mercedes says is achievable). If a car enters in front of you, the Mercedes will politely give way. It won’t honk in such a case, but will honk if a vehicle ahead decides to back up towards you.
The Level 3 system is a step up in autonomy from the existing Mercedes Level 2 The system has active steering, braking and distance control, but requires the driver to pay attention to the vehicle. Level 3 means that the vehicle has full control (and Mercedes’ legal department is responsible) for the vehicle’s actions. But it also requires the driver to be able to resume control with a 10-second warning from the system – otherwise, the car will stop and flash. So sleep lightly.
Drive Pilot will be optional in S-Class and EQS in Germany, but it has yet to receive regulatory approval in the United States. Mercedes has performed 50,000 miles of supervised testing in California and Nevada, and is in talks with regulators for public use, assuming other states will follow if those two states approve the system.
Prices for the European market will be announced in April. No date has been set for US valuation. When pressed across a range of football fields, a Mercedes spokesman said the Drive Pilot will cost less than $12,000 – the current price for TeslaThe “full self-driving” system is not yet operational.
How it works? Not too confusingly, the Drive Pilot uses a combination of long-range radar, long-range LiDAR, and a stereo all-in-one camera. The key element is the LiDAR sensor and its AI signal processing, developed by supplier Valeo, which generates 25 images per second, is 200 meters visible, classifies and tracks each object. There’s even a microphone that listens for sirens. To be truly Level 3, the system requires steering, brakes, and backup power. The system’s AI also learns the oddities of the roads for OTA updates: Do Botts Dots reflect harsh sunlight at dusk on certain sections of the road? Does the “traffic memory” deceleration happen at certain times even without an accident?
Then there’s the Pilot Smart Park (as Mercedes calls it), or the Automated Valet Parking, as supplier Bosch calls it. This is a step into Level 4 self-driving driving – where a properly equipped car can enter the garage, find an empty space and park itself without anyone else in the vehicle.
This technology requires more than a Level 3 equipped vehicle. The garage needs ground sensors for route communication with the car, cloud connectivity in places where Wi-Fi may not be available, or penetration of underground mobile networks, as well as a phone app that allows car owners to reserve a parking spot, controls release and Mariana Eichel, Bosch AVP Project Manager. The system will require all cars, regardless of brand, to use the same communication protocol. So while Mercedes was the first to demonstrate the system (it was recently installed at Stuttgart Airport), Bosch has developed the system to work with all cars.
During a demonstration at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles, a Mercedes EQS (with a driver) arrived at a specially marked drop off area in the porte cochère. After the driver exits the vehicle, the vehicle communicates with Bosch’s intelligent infrastructure, driving itself around a sharp turn – albeit on its stomach – and backing into an empty parking spot.
Why would a garage spend all this money – price undisclosed – to have this technology? Well, no valet, no constant paychecks, and insurance Liability insurance premiums for damaged cars could drop drastically. Also, since no one needs to get in and out of a parked car autonomy, the means can be packaged like sardines, allowing for more vehicles and thus increasing sales. Bosch is also looking at technology for rental car parks at airports, where the car will come to you, instead of you looking for it and putting yourself in an unnecessary position.
Do you expect more? Look, this is incremental technology. Despite Elon Muskproudly, there is no such thing as full self-driving. And not for many years. This is an impressive next step.