German automotive giant Mercedes-Benz recently achieved a monumental feat, becoming the first company to receive Level 3 autonomy certification in the United States. This allows their vehicles to be ‘conditionally automated’, meaning they can monitor their environment and make decisions on behalf of the driver when needed. However, drivers must still occasionally take over.
The landmark achievement was made possible with the introduction of Mercedes’ Drive Pilot system. It has an impressive range of capabilities, including being able to stay in its lane, adjust speed according to other vehicles, and even make lane changes all without requiring constant attention from the driver. Reports have suggested that this feature could allow people to play Tetris or perform other activities while driving.
This stands in stark contrast to Tesla’s Autopilot system which only provides Level 2 autonomy. Elon Musk has promised that fully self-driving cars will be available soon. However, achieving Level 4 autonomy, where drivers wouldn’t need to touch the wheel at all, has proven difficult for many companies due to imperfections in handoff between humans and their software-based assistants. It is worth noting though that Mercedes’ new capabilities are limited for now since it can only operate up to speeds of 40 mph (64 kph).
Nevertheless, many competing automakers such as Ford, Audi, BMW and Volvo are also working hard towards achieving similar levels of autonomous driving technology. Despite these advancements however, it remains uncertain whether allowing more freedom for drivers while driving is truly beneficial or if it could prove distracting instead.
I think that automated driving is key to a great future. It will eliminate so many accidents, road rage, drunk driving problems, and the list goes on and on. However, I’m personally going to be one of the last people on the list of automated driving vehicles because I’m just not ready to put my life in the hands of a machine yet.