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Mercedes hopes to offer hands-free driving this year

Mercedes-Benz will offer a hands-free driving system this year that can take some tasks from the driver in the United States if it can meet regulators’ standards in time.

The news comes from CEO Ola Kallenius. He said Automotive News“Our goal is to deploy this technology this year”, although the plans are not yet final.

Level 3 …Maybe

Automakers working on autonomous driving systems follow a framework created by SAE International, a global association of engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial vehicle industries.

Related: Self-driving cars – Everything you need to know

This framework sorts self-driving systems into five levels of autonomy, ranging from simple lane-centering systems that require active human driving at all times (Level 1) to vehicles that lack steering wheels and pedals because the car does everything (level 5) .

Every system currently on sale in the United States is a Level 2 system. These involve multiple automation systems that work together, such as lane centering and intelligent cruise control. They may let the driver take their hands off the wheel briefly, but never their attention from the road.

Mercedes says its new Ride Pilot could be the first Level 3 system sold in the United States. At level 3, the car can be driven in limited conditions, but the driver must remain ready to regain control. It allows drivers, Kallenius said A, to engage in “certain secondary activities”, such as checking emails, while the car safely maintains its distance from other cars.

Usable below 37 mph

Ride Pilot can operate below 37 mph, taking control in traffic jams to let the driver rest. The system will prompt the driver to take over control if necessary.

It was certified for use in Germany in December. Mercedes plans to offer it on the company’s flagship petrol sedan, the S-Class, and its electric flagship, the EQS, by the end of 2022.

Kallenius says the company has had discussions with US regulators to allow its use on US roads this year. However, he did not specify which states or agencies the company was talking to.

Confusion over names and advertising

The move could make Mercedes the first automaker to offer a Tier 3 system in the United States. Volvo has made similar plans, and neither automaker is certain they will achieve their goal.

Most other automakers have been reluctant to describe their systems as capable of performing at Level 3. Some, like GM’s upcoming Ultra Cruise, are arguably just as capable as what Kallenius describes. But these automakers, if they publicly discuss SAE levels, call their technology Level 2 systems.

Tesla has been aggressive in its advertising, drawing ire from some safety advocates for naming its Level 2 system “Full-Self Driving” when the system is far from true self-driving capability.

Safety advocates, meanwhile, have begun warning Americans against self-driving technology. Two of the most prominent automotive safety organizations made news on the issue in early 2022.

AAA began testing systems that encourage drivers to return their attention to the road and found that no system currently on the market met its standards.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced plans to begin evaluating driver attention warnings later this year.