Next-gen Mercedes S-Class will sport Level 3 partial automation

The only question is whether it will actually come to the US or not.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
2 min read

The is the company's long-time flagship model, and the next iteration due out will carry some seriously advanced driver aids... hopefully. Based on the experiences of its competitor, that tech might not make its way to the US at the same time.

The next-generation S-Class, which is reportedly due in 2020, should carry hardware and software that will enable SAE Level 3 partially automated driving, Automotive News Europe reports, citing an interview with Ola Källenius, Daimler's head of research and successor to current CEO Dieter Zetsche.

Källenius suggested to Automotive News Europe that should be able to beat a similar system from to market, because the new S-Class is due in 2020, whereas BMW's system isn't slated to arrive until 2021, attached to a production version of the iNext electric SUV concept.

Level 3 partial automation lives in kind of a weird spot. The current slate of advanced driver-assist systems, like 's Super Cruise and 's Autopilot, are Level 2, in that they require the human to maintain visual vigilance at all times and can be reasonably expected to retake control at a moment's notice.

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Mercedes-Benz has its hands in all kinds of driver-assist systems, from the light stuff all the way to full autonomy, although some of that research is years (or more) away from bearing fruit.


Level 3, on the other hand, is a type of conditional automation that can assume complete control of a vehicle, including monitoring the environment, but it still requires a human to operate as a fallback. Level 4 and 5 remove the human fallback from the equation.

However, even though the 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will come to the US, there's a chance that its Level 3 system will not. beat Mercedes to the punch with its new Traffic Jam Pilot system, a Level 3 system that debuted on the 2019 Audi A8 sedan. However, it won't come to the US straight away -- Audi cited a rat's nest of regulatory and infrastructural issues as the underlying reason. Instead, the US will get a system closer to Super Cruise or Autopilot.

So will Mercedes-Benz end up making the same decision? The automaker did not immediately return a request for comment, and automakers routinely refuse to discuss future products that haven't been unveiled. Källenius didn't mention the US market specifically when talking to Automotive News Europe, so it's unclear if Mercedes-Benz has market-specific concerns about its upcoming system.

Regulations can change over the course of years, though, and perhaps the same problems plaguing Traffic Jam Pilot's US release won't exist by the time the new S-Class comes to market. Regulations are also responsible for the lack of Audi's HD Matrix LED headlights in the US, but the cars can be upgraded to wield that functionality with a simple software update -- provided Washington turns its focus to adapting vehicle regulations for the 21st century.

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet

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