At the beginning of May, Mercedes-Benz announced the start date for the Drive Pilot system for highly automated driving. Based on the new UN regulation from June 2022, work on the Level 3 system continues in the background, as up to 130 km/h autonomous driving is now possible.
Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot: expansion of Level 3 implementation
At the launch of the Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot system – the first internationally certified system for autonomous driving – a maximum speed of 60 km/h was possible when the car took control.
In late June, a new UN Regulation No. 157 cleared the way for higher speeds. Vehicles that have a lane departure warning system, enabling autonomous driving, will be allowed to travel at speeds of up to 130 km/h on highways. Even lane changes by the autopilot system are to be permitted from now on, while the new regulation is to come into force from January 2023.
In the background, Mercedes is working under high pressure to implement the new regulation. After all, the company is a global pioneer in the field of assistance systems that operate according to Level 3 and allow complete control to be transferred to the vehicle. The basic requirement, however, is that a male or female driver must always be behind the wheel and be able to intervene at any time in emergency situations.
Increase needed Operational Design Domain
Since mid-May 2022, the Drive Pilot has been available as an optional extra for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQS. However, to enable the speed increase from a maximum of 60 km/h to 130 km/h when using the autonomous driving system in the first place, a new “Operational Design Domain” (ODD) is required.
This typically describes the conditions under which an autonomous driving system must function. Once this is in place, models with the Drive Pilot will need to obtain new approval from the Federal Motor Transport Authority, according to a report from ComputerBase.
The current ODD is subject to strict regulations that, for example, limit the speed to 60 km/h and prohibit the use of the Drive Pilot at night or in wet conditions.
Accordingly, when asked by ComputerBase, a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson confirmed that it was necessary to adapt the system to the new ODD and obtain renewed approval from the Federal Motor Transport Authority. However, in the architecture of the system, it is possible to simply adjust the speed range, the statement continues.
When asked whether a software update would be sufficient to extend the Level 3 system to a speed of 130 km/h or whether the hardware would have to be adapted accordingly, the manufacturer was unable to make a clear statement, noting that the magnitude of the changes to the system is also related to how far the new ODD is from the previous one.
Thus, it is not yet completely clear whether the speed increase of 70 kilometers per hour when using the Drive Pilot is possible via an OTA update. The company is currently working on the new ODD internally. However, details cannot be given at the moment.
In any case, the car manufacturer still has a lot of time until the implementation or release at the beginning of 2023. In the U.S., however, the mandatory steering wheel for autonomous cars will soon be eliminated. However, we are still a long way from that in this country.