Mercedes automated driving program makes the three-pointed star the first automobile manufacturer in the world to achieve UN-stringent R157’s legislative standards for a Level 3 system.
Mercedes-Benz is a pioneer in autonomous driving systems development
On the basis of the technical approval rule UN-R157, the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has awarded system permission for this, clearing the path for supplying such a system abroad, assuming that national law permits it. With the opening of the Road Traffic Act (StVG) for Level 3 systems in 2017, Germany has taken the lead in this area.
As a result, in the first half of 2022, consumers will be able to purchase an S-Class with Mercedes Drive Pilot, which will allow them to drive in conditionally autonomous mode at speeds of up to 60 km/h in heavy traffic or congested conditions on eligible German highway segments.
The Mercedes Drive Pilot system relieves driver fatigue by allowing him or her to undertake supplementary duties on the central display, such as internet shopping or e-mail processing in the in-car office. The EQS is likewise covered by the system approval.
The technical approval legislation that may certify such a system did not take effect until the beginning of 2021. Since then, it has been possible to adopt it across Europe, an opportunity that Mercedes-Benz was fast to embrace.
Germany was the first nation to develop a legal framework for the planned use of Level 3 systems when it passed the Road Traffic Act (StVG) in 2017.
Mercedes-Benz is launching Drive Pilot over 13,191 kilometers of German highways. Extensive testing of these systems is already taking place, for example in the United States and China. The technology will be phased in as soon as a national legal framework for conditionally automated operation in further markets is established.
“For many years, we have been working to realize our vision of automated driving. With this LiDAR-based system, we have developed an innovative technology for our vehicles that offers customers a unique, luxurious driving experience and gives them what matters most: time.
With the approval of the authorities, we have now achieved a breakthrough: We are the first manufacturer to put conditionally automated driving into series production in Germany,” says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, Chief Technology Officer responsible for Development and Purchasing.
“With this milestone, we are once again proving our pioneering work in automated driving and also initiating a radical paradigm shift. For the first time in 136 years of automotive history, the vehicle takes over the dynamic driving task under certain conditions. At the same time, we are pleased that Germany is continuing its pioneering role in automated driving with this approval.”
The Mercedes automated driving system, Drive Pilot, is developed to handle unexpected traffic situations
Drive Pilot may offer to take over the driving on appropriate freeway portions and when traffic density is high, initially up to the legally permissible speed of 60 km/h. The controls for this are on the left and right sides of the steering wheel rim, above the thumb recesses.
When the driver selects the Mercedes Drive Pilot, the technology automatically manages the vehicle’s speed and distance while smoothly guiding it inside its lane. The route profile, events that occur along the route, and traffic signs are all taken into account.
The technology also responds to unforeseen traffic conditions and manages them on its own, such as by performing lane evasive maneuvers or braking maneuvers.
Redundancy systems and sensors working together with LiDAR
Mercedes Drive Pilot adds to the Driving Assistance Package’s surround sensors by including additional sensors that Mercedes-Benz thinks are essential for safe conditionally autonomous driving. These include LiDAR, a camera in the back window, microphones, and a moisture sensor in the wheel wells, which are used to detect blue lights and other unique signals from emergency vehicles.
A digital HD map provides information on the road geometry, route profile, traffic signs, and unexpected traffic incidents (such as accidents or roadworks) in addition to sensor data. A backend connection is used to make this accessible and update it.
The S-Class with the optional Drive Pilot additionally incorporates redundant steering and braking systems, as well as a redundant onboard electrical system, allowing for safe handover to the driver even if one of these systems fails.
If the driver fails to regain control despite increasingly urgent urging and the expiration of the takeover period, such as due to a serious health crisis, the system brakes the car in a controlled and appropriate way.
At the same moment, the danger warning lights illuminate, and the Mercedes-Benz emergency call system is triggered, as well as the doors and windows, to enable entry to the inside simpler for any first responders.
Establishing the exact location is key in automated driving
When it comes to establishing such a system, Mercedes-Benz prioritizes safety, which includes high criteria on operational dependability. An extremely sophisticated positioning system is used to establish the exact location of the S-Class. This is a much more powerful technology than traditional GPS.
Furthermore, satellite navigation data is linked with sensor data and data from an HD map. Sensor data obtained by LiDAR, camera, radar, and ultrasonic sensors may include road geometry, route parameters, landmarks, and traffic signs, among other things.
The HD map displays a three-dimensional view of the street and surrounding area. The map data is regularly updated and stored in back-end data centers. Each vehicle additionally keeps a picture of this map data on board, compares it to the backend data on a regular basis, and updates the local data set as needed.
As a result, the HD map provides a steady location by representing the surroundings in a way that is independent of shadowing effects or a filthy sensor. It also contains data on road geometry and specific traffic occurrences, such as roadworks.
This high-precision map is distinguished from navigation device maps by its centimeter-level accuracy rather than meter-level accuracy, as well as its precise intersection and track model.
The advanced software features required for conditionally autonomous driving are provided by a powerful central control unit. Important algorithms are computed redundantly within the scope of the current security architecture.
SAE Level 3 (level 3 autonomous cars): some driving responsibilities are taken over by the autonomous driving feature. A driver is, however, still necessary. When the vehicle prompts the driver to intervene, the driver must always be ready to take control of the vehicle.