In Germany, the mixed beginning of the autonomous car

An attractive system in theory, but still disappointing in practice. This is how several German media describe Mercedes’ “drive pilot”, its level 3 autonomous driving system, this technology, which will be approved on French roads on Thursday September.

This software, which allows the driver not to intervene in driving his vehicle in certain situations, had been approved in Germany at the end of 2021. The German manufacturer had thus become the first car group in the world to have received permission to build these vehicles.. Its S-Class and its electric equivalent EQS have been marketed with this autonomous driving system since mid-May in Germany.

Deactivation in bad weather or before a tunnel

Thanks to the advanced techniques, the driver can let go of the steering wheel in traffic jams on the motorway and calmly flip through his magazine – completely legally – notes the German channel “Tagesschau”. Technology does the rest. However, be careful not to fall asleep as sensors check that the driver is still awake. And with good reason: He must be able to get back behind the wheel in any situation. For example, the system does not work when working on the road. An alarm is then triggered and the software passes the check. If the driver does not react, the car stops.

The semi-autonomous mode of the Mercedes can actually only be used under certain conditions: on certain sections of highways, up to 60 km/h and in good weather, the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” shows. And even when these conditions are met, there are frequent interruptions, says the journalist. As soon as the car detects a gap that is too big with it in front, or before a tunnel, the software transfers control to the human. “The car is driving, the driver is reading? We still have to wait before a ground-breaking innovation,” we can read in the newspaper’s columns. What interruptions for those who want to read their paper quietly, ironically the journalist.

Tesla’s setback in the US

The autonomous car’s “Drive pilot” can therefore only be used under very specific conditions and is deactivated as soon as a disruptive element appears. This reflects backlash from Tesla in the US, whose vehicles equipped with self-driving software have been involved in 273 accidents in the country, according to a report published in June by the US Highway Safety Agency (NHTSA).

While Elon Musk’s vehicles are equipped with Level 2 software, which requires an attentive driver, the California Department of Motor Vehicles is accusing Tesla of lying to consumers about this technology. In fact, according to the organization, Tesla cars currently cannot function as autonomous vehicles. And in this, the name of the software (“Autopilot”) from the American manufacturer appears to be abuse.

Skepticism across the Rhine

In Germany, if Mercedes has not announced the sales figures, the circulation of these models should still be an exception, four months after their introduction. The price of the “drive pilot” – an option of almost 6,000 euros on the S-class – is already prohibitive, notes the “Tagesschau”.

The “highly automated” models have not yet been democratized, but the next step may soon be on German roads. But the Germans seem to welcome these new technologies with skepticism. According to a study by the Center of Automotive Management (CAM) reported by the daily “Die Welt”, 49% of respondents do not see themselves using an autonomous vehicle at all (level 4 and 5) and only 18% are ready to use a .. Among the concerns is the reliability of the software, but also the fear of a computer attack or computer espionage.

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