The race is on for auto-manufacturing companies to become the first ones to develop and implement a high level of autonomy in their cars. Mercedes seems to have won a crucial race against Tesla recently by becoming the first certified Level-3 autonomous car company in the United States.
Level-3 autonomy, also known as conditional automation, is classified as the third level of driving automation by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). It allows the car to drive itself in certain circumstances, allowing the driver to take their hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals, but the driver must remain alert and take control at any time.
The race to become the first Level-3-autonomy car company has been intense, with many major auto-manufacturing companies vying for first place. Tesla and its full self-driving feature was the front-runner but were unable to get the necessary certifications in time.
It's worth noting that Level-3 autonomy is a grey area in terms of regulations. Most countries do not yet have specific regulations for vehicles with level-3 autonomy, and it is unclear what the legal responsibilities of the driver and the car manufacturer will be in the event of an accident. Hence, this project has been greenlit only in the state of Nevada in the US for now.
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"An unwavering commitment to innovation has consistently guided Mercedes-Benz from the very beginning. It is a very proud moment for everyone to continue this leadership and celebrate this monumental achievement as the first automotive company to be certified for Level 3 conditionally automated driving in the US market," Dimitris Psillakis, CEO and Head of Marketing & Sales North America, Mercedes-Benz USA, said in a press statement.
The key to Mercedes' success is Drive Pilot, which is a dance between various technologies including visual cameras, GPS, LiDAR arrays, radar and ultrasound sensors, and audio mics to get the car to safely drive itself. The feature is currently only available in the latest S-Class and EQS Sedan which are currently in production and should reach the Vegas strip by the third quarter of this year.
The development of Level-3 autonomy technology is just one step in the journey to fully automated driving, and there is still a lot of progress to be made. However, Mercedes' achievement has shown that Level-3 autonomy is now a reality, and it has set a new standard for the auto industry.
As technology advances, it is expected that level-3 autonomy will pave the way for the development of higher levels of autonomous driving, such as level-4 and level-5 autonomy. Level-4 and level-5 autonomy refer to cars that can drive themselves under all conditions, without human intervention. However, the technology at these levels is still in development and it may be several years before we see it on a road near you.
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