Mercedes can boast of being one step ahead of all its competitors: the brand is the first manufacturer to offer level 3 autonomous driving for two cars. BMW and Audi are just preparing something similar, other companies are not ready yet. The system is not cheap: in the Mercedes S-Class it costs 5950 euros, as the group announced. With the Mercedes EQS (test), 8842 euros are due because a driver assistance package still has to be booked. The system, called “Drive Pilot”, can be ordered from May 17.
waiver of responsibility
Until now, driver assistance systems have been used in cars, which can relieve the driver of various tasks such as staying in the lane or maintaining a safe distance. However, people remain responsible and must keep their hands on the wheel. Level 3 autonomous driving means the driver can temporarily transfer responsibility in a precisely described scenario. It does not have to constantly monitor what is happening on the road, but it must be able to intervene if the computer is overwhelmed by the situation.
Insurers in particular had insisted that the time before the vehicle was taken over by the driver should not be too short. Studies by the Insurers Accident Research Institute (UDV) have shown that distracted drivers need 10 seconds to take over and 15 seconds to fully master a traffic situation. “For users of automated driving systems, it must therefore be clear at all times what the system is doing and to what extent the driver can concentrate on other things,” says Anja Käfer-Rohrbach, Deputy Managing Director of the General Association of the German Insurance Industry.
The Mercedes “Drive Pilot” is limited to very specific situations with numerous legal requirements. It only works on motorways, at speeds of up to 60 km/h and only as long as the distance to the vehicle in front is not too great. If the system recognizes that the requirements are met, it can be activated by the driver. While Drive Pilot steers the car, the responsibility lies with Mercedes. When the system asks the driver to take control back, it has up to 10 seconds to do so.
There are other restrictions. “Drive Pilot” should drive on construction sites. However, Mercedes is initially forgoing this given the added complexity. According to legal requirements, a car in automatic mode must stay in its lane. If, for example, a lane change is necessary at a motorway junction, the car must yield control to the driver. Responsible Vice President of Mercedes, Georges Massing, assumes that the legal scope will be widened if the systems prove themselves in everyday life and create trust: “The market and all corners will put pressure on the system so that that you get more freedom”.
Insurers see two aspects to consider from their perspective. In terms of road safety, it is to be welcomed that automated driving at level 3 is only used on motorways up to 60 km/h – i.e. without having to take into account pedestrians, cyclists , oncoming traffic or passing traffic. “Current law has a simple and clear answer to the question of who compensates accident victims: that’s what owner’s motor vehicle liability insurance does,” says Käfer-Rohrbach. It also contributes to the social acceptance of automated cars. At the same time, this regulation is not a free pass for car manufacturers or suppliers: “Anyone who puts faulty systems on the market must respond within the framework of the applicable laws. Car insurers would examine and enforce the corresponding claims product liability,” she points out.
On the other hand, in the long term, insurers expect automated driving to reduce costs overall, even if repair costs increase. “Ultimately, the new systems will reduce the number of accidents by 13 to 19% by 2040, and the claims paid out by car insurers by only about 12%,” says Käfer-Rohrbach.