Anyone who has watched films such as I, Robot will have marvelled at the science fiction imagination on display. One of the most memorable features of that particular film was the amazing self-driving cars that filled the futuristic cityscape. 

You might be surprised to know that some 13 years have passed since the film was released, and of course, self-driving cars are filling the motoring press, thanks to heavy investment from high-profile backers like Google. 

But how much do these experimental vehicles really affect you and I? 2020 is only three years away – could the Mercedes in your front driveway really be taking the wheel all by itself as soon as that?

 

Level 3 autonomy

According to our friends in Stuttgart, that is a very real possibility. The latest top of the range S-Class already features what is known as Level 2 autonomy. This means the vehicle can regulate its own speed round corners, by slowing down on approach and speeding up on exit, and can even steer itself for up to 30 seconds, although the driver is required to keep his or her hands on the wheel at all time. 

The next stage is to take it to Level 3, and Mercedes have already been spotted on the public roads in Germany testing out the system on an E-class. This will allow extended periods of hands-free driving but is still some way short of full autonomy, which is classified as Level 5 within the automotive industry. 

Christoph von Hugo is in charge of driver assistance systems at Mercedes, and he has stated that the company aims to have Level 3 systems available to customers by 2020. It is no secret that Mercedes is a step ahead of its main competitors in this area, and this is a position that they are naturally eager to maintain. 

 

Comfort and safety

The whole point of Level 3 is to allow drivers the comfort of not having to put their full focus and concentration on the road ahead, as they are still required to do with the Level 2 systems. Of course, this represents a huge step forward in the technology and makes full autonomy look like a genuine proposition for the future. 

It also means that Mercedes needs to have 100 per cent confidence in the system's reliability. One of the shortcomings of the Level 2 system is that it cannot always understand variable speed limits, which can change according to road conditions, traffic levels, adverse weather and so on. 

As von Hugo pointed out, customers enjoy the relaxation and comfort that Level 2 driver aids bring, but still need to pay attention to the road and their surroundings. To achieve a workable Level 3 system, he said they needed to be “close to 100% reliable for adhering to speed limits.”

 

Any Merc will do

Although the Level 2 system was first released on the flagship S-class, Mercedes are keen to make these aids available across the range. To prove the point, the Level 2 system will be available on the new A-class when it is released next year. A new S-class will not appear till 2021, and von Hugo has confirmed that the manufacturer “will not wait another four years” to launch the next evolution of the system, so it will be intriguing to see which model becomes the first hands free Mercedes. 

Anyone who has watched films such as I, Robot will have marvelled at the science fiction imagination on display. One of the most memorable features of that particular film was the amazing self-driving cars that filled the futuristic cityscape.

You might be surprised to know that some 13 years have passed since the film was released, and of course, self-driving cars are filling the motoring press, thanks to heavy investment from high-profile backers like Google.

But how much do these experimental vehicles really affect you and I? 2020 is only three years away – could the Mercedes in your front driveway really be taking the wheel all by itself as soon as that?

 

Level 3 autonomy 

According to our friends in Stuttgart, that is a very real possibility. The latest top of the range S-Class already features what is known as Level 2 autonomy. This means the vehicle can regulate its own speed round corners, by slowing down on approach and speeding up on exit, and can even steer itself for up to 30 seconds, although the driver is required to keep his or her hands on the wheel at all time.  

The next stage is to take it to Level 3, and Mercedes have already been spotted on the public roads in Germany testing out the system on an E-class. This will allow extended periods of hands free driving, but is still some way short of full autonomy, which is classified as Level 5 within the automotive industry. 

Christoph von Hugo is in charge of driver assistance systems at Mercedes, and he has stated that the company aims to have Level 3 systems available to customers by 2020. It is no secret that Mercedes is a step ahead of its main competitors in this area, and this is a position that they are naturally eager to maintain. 

 

Comfort and safety 

The whole point of Level 3 is to allow drivers the comfort of not having to put their full focus and concentration on the road ahead, as they are still required to do with the Level 2 systems. Of course, this represents a huge step forward in the technology and makes full autonomy look like a genuine proposition for the future.  

It also means that Mercedes needs to have 100 per cent confidence in the system's reliability. One of the shortcomings of the Level 2 system is that it cannot always understand variable speed limits, which can change according to road conditions, traffic levels, adverse weather and so on.

As von Hugo pointed out, customers enjoy the relaxation and comfort that Level 2 driver aids bring, but still need to pay attention to the road and their surroundings. To achieve a workable Level 3 system, he said they needed to be “close to 100% reliable for adhering to speed limits.” 

 

Any Merc will do 

Although the Level 2 system was first released on the flagship S-class, Mercedes are keen to make these aids available across the range. To prove the point, the Level 2 system will be available on the new A-class when it is released next year. A new S-class will not appear till 2021, and von Hugo has confirmed that the manufacturer “will not wait another four years” to launch the next evolution of the system, so it will be intriguing to see which model becomes the first hands-free Mercedes.

Will Mercedes be hands free by 2020